A soon-to-be-father has spent five days in hospital after helping to rescue a man from a burning van in Fornham St Genevieve, north of Bury St Edmunds.
Thomas Lanarch was on a confined space rescue course, standing on top of a building, when a car and a van collided on the B1106 opposite his training field shortly after 3pm last Thursday (June 4).
The 28-year-old, from Beck Row, heard the ‘crunch’ of the crash, but it was not until he saw smoke coming up through the trees and people running away that he decided to rush and help, followed by up to six others on his course.
They arrived at the scene to find a badly damaged car, overturned and blocking the road, but with no-one inside, and hurried over to the van.
It took three men to free the driver, who was on the side of the impact and had become trapped.
“We had to pull the door off - it wouldn’t come easily because it was caved in,” said Thomas.
Then they turned their attention to the passenger.
He had injured his back and was unable to feel his legs, but the van was on fire so he had to be moved.
Luckily, Thomas, who had worked on oil rigs for nine years, had been trained in rescue, first aid and fire fighting, so knew what to do.
With help, he managed to lift the injured man out and put him on the ground.
He put a coat over his head to keep the smoke off and stayed with him to support his neck and spine, moving him to safety as the blaze crept closer.
He said: “The whole thing became engulfed in flames, the tyres were exploding and I could see the hedgerow catching fire. Luckily, by the time the fire reached us, the fire brigade had turned up.”
Thomas, who will soon become a father for the first time, was admitted to hospital for five days after suffering from the effects of breathing in smoke.
While there, he was visited by the passenger, who was in a wheelchair but had regained some feeling in his legs.
Thomas said: “I think he was discharged the day before me. He’s got a lot of physio coming up but last I heard he was doing really well.
“We’re going to meet up for a few beers and a barbecue when we’re both a bit better.”
Grateful to everyone who helped with the rescue, he added: “If it was just me there I never would have got them both out in time.”