Shropshire’s immaculately dressed High Sheriff swapped her refinery for fire kit and safety goggles to be “rescued” from a crashed car by firefighters.
Christine Holmes climbed into the front seat of a scrap 14-year-old grey Suzuki car ready for six firefighters from Green Watch at Shrewsbury Fire Station to practise a rescue.
The high profile road collision “victim” was in the driving seat to see at first hand how firefighters regularly free victims of county road crashes from their wrecked vehicles.
The north Shropshire magistrate, who was appointed Shropshire’s High Sheriff in April, volunteered for “the hot seat” to highlight the important work of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
She saw at very close quarters what it is like for motorists cut out of their vehicles after a crash on county roads.
“I know it was only a practice but they are obviously very highly trained. Their confidence as they talked me through gave me a huge feeling of security,” said the High Sheriff.
“We are just so fortunate to have Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service which excels at these sort of rescues.”
Kate White (38), a firefighter for 12 years, sat next to the county dignitary to hold her neck and head straight and reassure her every step of the way as in a real crash.
“We explain what is happening and keep them as calm as possible and give them confidence. We do a first aid check if we are first on the scene and make sure they don’t move when we stabilise the car. We also reassure them with the noise from the cutters being used to cut through the vehicle to get them out.”
The car was stabilised so it didn’t move during the rescue, hose reel jets were prepared in case of fire and the car battery disconnected. Airbags are de-activated if present.
A clear cover is put over the driver to prevent being cut by showering glass as the windscreen is removed. The passenger door is removed with a hydraulic spreader, front pillar sawn off and the car roof taken off in double quick time.
Car roofs are not normally removed unless paramedics at the scene require it after assessing the patient’s condition.
Shropshire firefighters now attend more road crashes than fires and are regularly called out to county roads to rescue people trapped in their vehicle.
Rural roads such as the notorious A49 from Ludlow to Whitchurch - dubbed the county’s most dangerous route - are where most crashes occur. A third of all fatal accidents in the county were recorded on that stretch of road over a three year period.
Watch Manager Alex Howell said: “Speed is the killer. People think they know a road that is familiar to them but they must drive to the road conditions.”
He urged drivers to take more care especially with roads made more slippy in autumn and winter.
Christine Holmes, who also soared 100ft above Shrewsbury fire HQ in the Aerial Ladder Platform during her visit, has followed in the footsteps of her High Sheriff predecessors who have all been cut free from crashed cars by firefighters. One, Anna Turner, during her term in office, was soaked to the skin when she took part in a practice river rescue as well as a car rescue by county firefighters.
Between 2012 and 2014, 26 crashes on county roads resulted in 52 deaths and serious injuries. During that time 16 people died or were seriously injured on the A49 and there were 979 casualties on the county’s six main routes in 688 accidents.
** You can follow the High Sheriff on twitter where she has posted the image, taken with firefighters, as her main twitter photo.