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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Passers-by pull family from burning car after crash

An off-duty paramedic has revealed how brave, quick-thinking passers-by pulled a family-of-five to safety from a burning car.

A66 Threlkeld crash scene photo
The aftermath of the crash

Graham Green was driving home after finishing a night shift and was around 300 yards behind one of the vehicles when the head-on crash happened on the A66 outside the White Horse Inn at Scales, near Threlkeld.

The Mercedes estate, in which a couple from Southampton and three children were travelling in, was involved in a collision with a westbound blue Ford pickup.

Still wearing his uniform, 49-year-old Graham ran to the scene to find smoke billowing from under the bonnet of the Mercedes.

Speaking to the News & Star, Graham said: “I could see smoke. At that point I didn’t realise the brave people around the car had already got the three children out of the back of the car and they had been taken up to the pub.

“It wasn’t until I was helping the mother in the front passenger seat and she was asking about her children that I was told where they were.

“After we managed to get her and the man out from the driver’s side, we then went to get the older woman out of the pickup. Fairly shortly after that the whole car was engulfed with flames.”

He added: “I’m not a hero; I get paid and am fully trained to deal with situations like this. The real heroes are those brave members of the public who got out of their cars and did what they did without a second thought.”

Graham, who lives in Temple Sowerby, near Penrith and who is based at Keswick ambulance station, said: “I was asking people to do things like keep the heads of those from the cars still and comfort them.

“Because of what they were doing to help, I was able to assess and request the two helicopters and ambulances. It was only when I discovered about the children that a senior officer arrived and we decided that a third helicopter was called too.”

He added: “There was no problem in getting any of them out of the cars because people had just done it without a thought of the danger to themselves.

“The public there were fantastic and they really are the ones that deserve a pat on the back.”

The family was all dragged to safety before the fire spread to the car and grassy bank.

Yesterday they were all described as being in a stable condition in hospital following the dramatic rescue.

A sixth person – a 61-year-old Sheffield woman driving the Ford Ranger pickup – was also pulled from her vehicle.

Emergency services have been quick to praise those who helped.

Station manager Adrian Holme, of Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Undoubtedly without the brave actions of these people who risked their own lives to help extract these six people from the wreckage of both vehicles, the impact of this collision we are dealing with could have been very different.”

He also thanked the staff of the White Horse Inn who cared for the three children while efforts were made to free their parents and the second motorist.

Keen mountaineer Anthony Richardson, 30, from Woodstone Village in County Durham, was among those who helped.

About four cars behind the pickup, Mr Richardson was heading to Keswick for a day out with his mother and 10-year-old daughter.

The telecommunications consultant said: “There were a few people already there so I was running along the line of cars that had stopped shouting at them to see if anyone had fire extinguishers.

“We got some and took them back and helped bring it down a bit as we helped get the man out of the car. He was in a lot of pain and crying out for help. There was smoke billowing everywhere and the flames just got bigger and bigger.

“When we got the woman from the pickup, my mum was helping to comfort her and keep her conscious. She didn’t have a clue what had happened to her.”

He added: “The children had been in the back of the car and their screams of ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ are all I can hear.”

Three air ambulances, three ambulances and three other specialist crews from the North West Ambulance Service, fire crews from Keswick and Penrith and police from Workington, Penrith and Cockermouth scrambled to the scene at about 9.25am on Saturday.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service sent two helicopters and a third was sent by the North West Air Ambulance Service from Blackpool.

The Mercedes driver, a 43-year-old man, was airlifted to the major trauma centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, where he arrived in a critical condition. Medics had to anaesthetise him at the scene because of the “significant chest injuries and multiple broken limbs” he sustained.

His 43-year-old wife, who was in the front passenger seat, was flown to the same hospital by the Pride of Cumbria helicopter. She sustained serious leg and abdominal injuries.

Two of their three children – a 14-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl – were taken to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle with minor injuries.

The third child, a 10-year-old boy, was airlifted to the RVI.

The pickup driver was taken to the Cumberland Infirmary by road ambulance, suffering from minor injuries.

The road was closed for more than four hours.

At the height of the sun-soaked bank holiday weekend, the road closures led to heavy congestion on the routes around the crash site.

A cordon closed the A66 at the Rheged roundabout and streams of cars were diverted along country roads as motorists sought to find another route to the Lake District.

Police are appealing for anyone at the scene or witnesses to contact PC Phill Carruthers, of the Operational Support Unit, at Cumbria police on 101, quoting log 79 of April 19.

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