Commendation for Brave Ambulance Staff

Tuesday, 29 March, 2011

Left to right: Chief Inspector Stuart Walne, Emergency Medical Technician Richard Mitchell, Paramedic Pete Cownley and Chief Superintendent Keith Lumley

Two members of staff from Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust have received awards from the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire after putting their own lives in danger to save others from a burning vehicle.

Paramedic Pete Cownley and Emergency Medical Technician Richard Mitchell from Wath Ambulance Station were nominated for the accolade by South Yorkshire Police after hearing about their brave actions at a road traffic collision.

The recently bestowed awards, given to people in the UK in recognition of acts of bravery in rescuing others from the life-threatening effects of fires, were presented to them by police Chief Inspector Stuart Walne and Chief Superintendent Keith Lumley.

The event happened in November 2009 when Peter and Richard were deployed to a road traffic collision involving two cars in Treeton, one of which had burst into flames on impact. When they arrived they saw the vehicle had smoke and flames rising above it and, on finding that there were two unconscious people trapped in the front seats, didn't hesitate in attempting to rescue them.

Disregarding the risk involved they approached the burning and smoke-logged car which was well ablaze by this time. Richard opened the door on the driver's side and managed to pull the occupant to safety but, on finding the passenger door jammed shut, Peter had to fight the acrid smoke inside the vehicle to haul the passenger across and out of the driver's door.

Richard, who lives in Conisbrough, said: "We didn't waste any time and had to weigh up in seconds what needed to be done. The engine compartment of the car was on fire and that's when I saw the two lads in the front not moving. I shouted to Pete and we acted instinctively. It wasn't until afterwards that we realised how fine the timing had been as the car was fully ablaze within 30 seconds of us pulling them out."

After Peter and Richard had pulled the occupants clear of the burning car they administered emergency treatment at the roadside until additional medical assistance got to the scene. The vehicle was completely destroyed when fire crews arrived.

Chief Inspector Stuart Walne, Head of Roads Policing at South Yorkshire Police, said: "Peter and Richard showed extraordinary bravery during this incident and our Senior Command Team had no hesitation in nominating them for this award. Without their actions, the occupants of the car would not have survived.

"As emergency services we all have the duty to protect life but, on this occasion, Peter and Richard's actions were certainly above and beyond this. They put the safety of the crash victims first and were prepared to put themselves in danger to help them."

Speaking about the award Peter, from Rotherham, said the pair were extremely proud to have received this accolade. He said: "It's great to be recognised for the extra work we put into doing our daily duties so it was enough that we had been nominated let alone win the award. As two normal blokes, we both feel really privileged to have received the training and to have the knowledge to do the job that we do."

David Whiting, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said: "I am extremely proud of our staff for the actions they took. They put their own safety at risk so that they could provide emergency medical care and saved two lives. I am delighted their actions have been acknowledged with this award".

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