Firefighting trio in rescue drama

Shropshire firefighters Simon Bendall, Pete Lewis and Craig Willis with their champagne and thank you cards at Baschurch Fire Station|Add photo caption or leave blank|Add photo caption or leave blank|Add photo caption or leave blank

Three off duty firefighters on their way to a stag night in Blackpool have been praised for putting into action their "lifesaving" skills after a high speed car crash on a busy Shropshire road left three people trapped and seriously injured.

Baschurch firefighting trio Simon Bendall, Pete Lewis and Craig Willis were stuck in the ensuing traffic jam on the A5 between Oswestry and Shrewsbury between Shottatton and Queen's Head on the day of the crash in August last year.

They sped past the queues to reach the scene where driver Joan Smith, an Oxford PE teacher and a former schoolfriend lay trapped in the wreckage of their Saab car. A young motorist, who was convicted this month at Shrewsbury Crown Court of motoring offences, was also trapped and hurt in his wrecked car.

"We didn't see the accident happen, just the build up of traffic. Simon drove past the queues with the hazard lights on and we did exactly what we are trained to do," said Pete Lewis, of Pete Lewis Transport, one of the retained firefighters at Baschurch fire station.

"The first thing I did was to dial 999 and I was the first one to do so. People were driving past minutes after the incident obviously thinking someone else had called."

Mrs Smith, 60, who was driving to her friend's Wrexham home, suffered 16 fractures, including two broken arms, broken leg, numerous rib fractures, pelvis damage and a collapsed lung. Her friend had multiple fractures to an arm and a broken collar bone.

"One firefighter jumped into the back of the car and held my head up and kept talking to me. He was reassuring me all the time," said Mrs Smith, who can only just walk again, almost a year after the nightmare crash.

Mr Lewis said: "We did exactly what we are trained to do. We stabilised the vehicles, cared for the casualties until the paramedics and the air ambulance arrived and helped to direct traffic."

Despite arriving at their stag night an hour and a half late, Pete said: "We were delayed in getting there. But helping to save three lives meant that it was worth it."

Mrs Smith who came to Shropshire to present bottles of champagne to the firefighters with a thank you card, said: "I just want to say thank you for everything they did to help on that awful day."

21st July, 2006