Photo gallery: ‘I had a choice: either stand there and watch someone burn to death or do something about it’ - Norwich hero describes saving woman from car blaze

The scene on the A140, where a woman was dragged from her crashed car seconds before it was engulfed in flames. Picture: Stephen Huntley. The scene on the A140, where a woman was dragged from her crashed car seconds before it was engulfed in flames. Picture: Stephen Huntley.

Monday, December 9, 2013
9:50 AM

These dramatic photographs show the searing fireball that engulfed a crashed car – just seconds after fearless rescuers had dragged the injured driver to safety.

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The scene on the A140, where a woman was dragged from her crashed car seconds before it was engulfed in flames. Picture: Stephen Huntley.The scene on the A140, where a woman was dragged from her crashed car seconds before it was engulfed in flames. Picture: Stephen Huntley.

The brave trio carried the trapped woman from the wreckage after her car was involved in a collision with a lorry, veered across the road and burst into flames in a hedge on the A140.

To see the series of photographs, click on the photo gallery link at the top-right of this page.

Fire chiefs have commended the heroic lifesaving actions of the men in the seconds that stopped a crash turning to tragedy.

Lakenham father-of-two Mark Thompson was among the first on the scene and found the driver pinned against the steering wheel, with flames licking at the windscreen just inches from her face.

“I had a choice: either stand there and watch someone burn to death or do something about it,” he said.

“When it comes down to it, that’s not a choice.

“We knew we had to deal with it, because in another minute she would have died.

“She’s a very lucky woman: she’s alive and she will be able to spend Christmas with her family, I hope.”

Fire and ambulance crews were called to the crash, which happened on the A140 between Mendlesham and Earl Stonham at 8.30am on Saturday, and took the woman to hospital for treatment for shock and minor burns to her leg.

The other two rescuers were Territorial Army member Simon Barnett, and a 31-year-old father-of-one from Eaton in Norwich, who asked not to be identified, who was travelling to work at John Lewis in Ipswich.

Mr Thompson was travelling to Sussex with his wife, Merry Halliday, and sons Ned, seven, and Frasier, five, when he heard a bang and saw a car ahead veer into bushes at the roadside.

“I stopped straight away and could see that the car was already on fire, with flames up against the windscreen,” said the 52-year-old, of Old Lakenham Hall Road.

“Three of us got to the car at the same time and saw the woman trapped inside against the steering wheel.

“We tried to move the seat and somebody tried her seatbelt while I grabbed her arm.”

After a frantic tussle to release the woman as the flames crept ever nearer, the men freed her and carried her to safety.

“She was wedged in quite hard and it was a few seconds before we got her out, but we did.

“Within a minute of the crash the whole car was on fire, and there were a couple of explosions.”

They also managed to free one of the driver’s two dogs, though the other died in the fire.

Mr Thompson, a self-employed strategy consultant, said he didn’t consider himself “a particularly brave person” but that his family were proud of his heroics.

He also paid tribute to the two other men who helped with the rescue.

He said: “I don’t know anything about the woman we helped, other than her name was Val.

“It would be lovely to find out how she is.”

All three men have been praised by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s Carl Francis, who said: “The people who happened upon the incident acted very thoughtfully, very heroically.

“The lady was obviously shocked. The fire had started at the time of impact. They have undoubtedly saved an incident that could have been very much worse.”

Freelance photographer Stephen Huntley, pictured, was driving north to cover the floods in Lowestoft when he saw the black smoke and grabbed his camera to capture the incredible images.

He said: “The motorists happened to be in the right place at the right time. I’m thankful for the outcome because it could have been much worse.”

Do you know the rescued driver? Email mark.shields@archant.co.uk or call 01603 772423.

8 comments

  • Whilst I must commend the bravery of these men helping this woman, such a fantastic unselfish act. Am I the only person who thinks all these pictures are a tad distasteful? I am pretty sure the poor injured woman would not want pictures of her laying at the roadside for all and sundry to see. Perhaps a bit more tact by the happened-to-be-there photographer??!!

    Report this comment

    luanmapo

    Monday, December 9, 2013

  • He certainly does deserve an award, very brave man and I hope there are more like him out there, I wish him and the other helpers a very healthy happy Christmas and of course the lady also ;)

    Report this comment

    melalmighty

    Monday, December 9, 2013

  • Well done you people. You can be justly proud of your actions.

    Report this comment

    Carol Barnes

    Monday, December 9, 2013

  • well done to nick, one of the other rescuers

    Report this comment

    smeg

    Monday, December 9, 2013

  • Greg Sayer

    Monday, December 9, 2013

  • Well done to all three ,your families should be very proud

    Report this comment

    Reader

    Monday, December 9, 2013

  • He deserves a bravery award.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Monday, December 9, 2013

  • Greg Sayer

    Monday, December 9, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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