Dermot Murnaghan presents more accounts of lifethreatening
emergencies and daring rescues.
Combining testimonies from those involved with
reconstructions and genuine footage, each edition
tells the stories behind Britain’s most extraordinary
acts of bravery. This week’s instalment features two
men who rescued the victim of a motorway
accident, and a helicopter crew who came to the
aid of a stricken ferry off the Lancashire coast.
“The difference between life and death is often luck,
sometimes training and – just occasionally –
outright bravery,” says Dermot Murnaghan. “This
series celebrates everyday heroes who put their
lives on the line.” This week’s first heroes are
policeman Terry Philips and fireman Steve Harris,
who came to the aid of a driver after a dramatic
motorway crash.
On 29th August 2006, PC Terry Philips was
driving to work through the Cumberland Basin
outside Bristol when he heard a big bang that he
recognised instantly as a road accident. A car had
just spun out of control, crossed four lanes of
traffic and crashed halfway through the metal
barrier on the other side of the road. It came to
rest dangling perilously over the edge of the
flyover. When Terry arrived on the scene, he saw
that the driver, Pete Howell, had been catapulted
into the back seat during the crash and was in a
bad condition.
Terry jumped straight into the car and began to
administer first aid to Pete, who was gradually
regaining consciousness. At this point, Steve Harris
– an off-duty fireman who had miraculously been
on the road when the accident happened – arrived
at the scene. Steve began by trying to pull Pete
from the car, until he realised that his efforts were
making the vehicle ever more unstable. He instead
used his bodyweight to keep the car from falling off
the edge of the flyover by sitting on the bumper.
From Terry’s quick assessment of Pete, it was
obvious that he had a bad head injury and needed
immediate treatment, meaning that Terry had to
remain in the vehicle until the emergency services
arrived ten minutes later. The police eventually
closed off the road and the fire brigade secured the
car by anchoring it to a fire engine. Terry was then
able to exit the car and hand over care of the young
man to paramedics. Without Terry’s bravery in
remaining in the car to administer essential first aid,
Pete would have died; without Steve’s quick
thinking and courage in using his weight as a
counterbalance, the car would have plunged 40
feet –with Pete and Terry inside.
Next up this week is the story of a ferry that ran
into trouble during a storm off the coast of
Fleetwood, Lancashire. The Riverdance departed
Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland, on the morning of
31st January this year, laden with 52 trailers, one
truck and one private car. During the final phase of
a hitherto uneventful crossing, the vessel was
struck by a freak wave. All the vehicles on the main
deck shifted, producing an enormous list, which at
one point exceeded 60 degrees.
The Riverdance’s captain called for helicopter
assistance just after 7.30pm. The first rescue
helicopter to arrive on the scene was manned by
winchman Richard Taylor, pilot Lee Turner and
co-pilot Giles Ratcliffe. Despite appalling sea
conditions and 60mph winds, all four passengers
from the Riverdance, along with ten of its 19-
strong crew, were rescued and taken to
Blackpool Airport.
The remaining crew members struggled to
refloat the Riverdance, which by this stage had
run to ground. As high water approached, the
vessel swung towards the beach, allowing the
sailors enough time to make it to dry land. Thanks
to the actions of winchman Richard Taylor and his
crew, disaster was averted and all involved
escaped unharmed.
Elsewhere this week, there is the story of a man
who helped rescue his neighbours from a fierce
house fire; and that of a couple who risked their
own lives to save two men trapped in fast-flowing
waters in the Thames Weir.

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