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THE shocked mother of celebrity Zoe Ball says she could have been killed when a live firework tore through her car late at night.
Julia Peckham, 68, was driving her convertible BMW through Civic Way in Burgess Hill at 10.10pm on Tuesday night when terror struck.
She says she was lucky to have avoided serious injury and is now warning everyone to be on their guard for the annual celebrations.
At least 35,000 people are expected to pour into Lewes Bonfire tonight for the annual revelry.
Armed police will be on the streets to reassure the public amid controversy that trains have been cancelled for a number of hours to limit the number of visitors.
Emergency services had feared around 60,000 might turn up but they are keen to reduce that figure by up to half.
Other displays are taking place around this weekend.
Ms Peckham told of her horror when the rocket hit her.
She said: “The first I knew what was happening came when there was a sudden bang.
“A six-inch cone-shaped rocket was on its way down and it came through the roof of my car.
“It hit my shoulder and I could feel the flames.
“It fell in between mine and the passenger’s seat.
“I slammed on the brakes and stopped immediately.
“I quickly smothered it so I knew it was out.
“Then I threw it out of the car.”
Ms Peckham suffered a small mark on her cheek and some of her hair was burnt along with her coat.
But she says it could have been much worse.
She said: “I could have crashed the car and caused an accident or worse still the rocket could have seriously injured me.
“I spoke to my insurance company and they say they had never received a claim like this before.
“I want it to serve as a warning to other motorists.
“It really could have been a lot worse so I must count myself lucky.
“The rocket was obviously on its way down at the time and it must have been at some speed to come through the roof of the car.
“I am relieved that I managed to stamp out the flame almost immediately.”
Ms Peckham says she was on her way home from panto rehearsals at the time of the drama.
People are urged to stay safe at events taking place this weekend which are set to attract thousands.
The Family Firework Spectacular will once again be held at the Nevill Recreation Ground in Hove today. Gates will open at 5pm ready for the fireworks display at 7pm.
Brighton Racecourse will host the Brighton Lions Fireworks Night on Sunday. Doors open at 6pm ready for the fireworks at 7.30pm.
Sussex Cricket’s Fireworks Night will be held at the County Ground in Hove on Sunday, with gates opening at 6pm and the display starting at 7.30pm.
Source: The Argus