Britain’s Bravest

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.

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 edition features an RAF
helicopter crew who battled against the elements
to save the lives of four yachtsmen; and a group of
volunteers who came to the aid of a young woman
trapped in a cave.
“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 hero is winchman
Dave Standbridge, part of an RAF search-andrescue
crew based at Leconfield in Yorkshire. Late
one afternoon, Dave and his team responded to a
mayday call from the Mollie Louise yacht, which
had run into difficulties in the North Sea.
Skipper Rob Barton, his son Dave and their
friends Dan and Adrian were crossing from Holland
to Hull when they were hit by force 10 gales. A
freak wave smashed into the side of the Mollie
Louise and swept Rob, Dave and Adrian
overboard. “Everything went quiet and very cold,
and I realised I was under the water,” recalls Rob.
He managed to make a mayday call, before
another wave destroyed his radio. Dan was still
aboard the yacht, but his inexperience as a sailor
meant that he could not turn the vessel around.
Luckily, an RAF crew had received the mayday
call – and it was not long before Dave Standbridge
and his team had found the yacht. However,
finding the stranded sailors was going to be more
difficult. “A human head in the water is a very small
object, and the ocean is a very big place,” says
Dave. When the crew finally spotted the men, they
had been in the water for over an hour and were
beginning to slip into unconsciousness.
Risking his life, Dave lowered himself into the
waves and began to save the men, one by one.
“I can’t describe the sudden change from being full
of despair to being full of hope,” says Rob.
Unfortunately, Adrian died while he was in the
water, but thanks to the bravery of Dave
Standbridge, Rob and his son lived to tell the tale.
“Any other winchman would have done exactly the
same,” says Dave. “That’s what we’re here for.”
The next story in this week’s show takes place in
Otter Hole in South Wales – a cave that presents
enthusiasts with a unique set of challenges owing
to tidal passages that flood twice a day, blocking it
off from the outside world. While guiding a film
crew through the tight passageways, caver Laura
Trowbridge slipped and fell, breaking her back and
cracking her pelvis. “Everything hurt,” she
remembers. The people with Laura went to raise
the alarm, but it took them some four hours to find
their way out of the cave.
When Gary Taylor and Peter Collings-Wells of
the local cave-rescue organisation heard about
what had happened, they knew they had only a
brief window in which to reach the injured woman
before the tide barred their way. They managed to
find Laura after two hours, but the rescue was
going to be a long and arduous process. As they
edged Laura inch by inch across thick mud,
jagged rocks and rushing water, a single slip
could have paralysed her for life.
After 20 hours underground, the team had
come within 15 metres of the entrance when they
were halted by a tight bend through which the
stretcher could not pass. In the end, Laura was to
become the hero of her own rescue story. “I
decided to unstrap myself from the stretcher and
crawl through,” she explains. “I did what I felt
needed to be done at the time.” By the time she
reached the surface, it had taken 24 hours and
over 100 volunteers to rescue Laura. “She was
incredibly brave all the way through,” says Gary.
“She knew she had a part to play.”
Elsewhere this week, there is the story of a good
citizen who saved the life of a stranger in the
Tewkesbury floods; and that of a passing motorist
who refused to give up on the horrifically injured
victim of a car crash.

Dermot Murnaghan presents this brand new ten-part series exploring some incredible accounts of life-threatening emergencies and daring rescues. Combining powerful testimonies from the people involved with reconstructions and genuine footage,each edition tells the dramatic true stories behind Britain’s most extraordinary acts of bravery. Among the stories featured in this opening instalment are those of a navy helicopter crew who rescued villagers during a flash flood in Cornwall, and a pair of rally drivers who came to the aid of a rival team.

“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.” The first such hero is Warrant Officer Bob Yeomans, part of a Royal Navy helicopter rescue crew based at Culdrose in Cornwall. In 2004, a flash flood in Boscastle presented the crew with one of the toughest rescue missions of recent times. By the time Bob and his colleagues arrived at the scene, the villagewas engulfed in water. “It was like a Hollywood disaster movie,” he recalls.

With people all around who needed to be saved from the deluge, the helicopter crew had to decide who was in the most danger. They focused first on the Evans family –dad Andrew, mum Kim and their three young children –who had clambered onto the roof of the visitor’s centre. With cars and trees being swept down the road and threatening the building’s integrity, the crew had to act fast. In treacherous conditions, Bob winched down to the apex of the building and began to take the children up one by one.
As he lifted the kids to safety, Bob’s worst fear was that he might drop one of them and have to plunge into the water after them –to almost certain death. Eventually, he saved the entire family –and just in time. Soon after Andrew made it into the craft, the building collapsed. “I have no doubt that had the navy not come and rescued us then, we would all have perished,” says Andrew. “They won’t say that they’re heroes,” adds Kim. “But they are.” Amazingly, nobody died in the Boscastle floods –all thanks to the courageous actions of people like Bob Yeomans.

The next story in this week’s show features a different kind of bravery. During the Swansea Bay rally of 2005, championship favourites Marcus Dodd and Andrew Bargery were having a good race. However, as they came onto the final straight, they lost control of the vehicle and sped into a lake, coming to rest on a grassy bank. The pair knew their race was over, but they climbed out of the car unharmed and waited to be picked up. Back on the track some time later, amateur drivers Paul Jones and Hamish Campbell were approaching the same bend at 100mph, when they too veered off course. However, this car rolled
over and entered the water upside down, leaving the drivers trapped inside. Both windscreens smashed and the car rapidly filled with water. “Everything was very blurred,” recalls Hamish. Standing by the side of the lake, Marcus Dodd and Andrew Bargery saw the whole drama unfold and acted immediately. Jumping into the water, they swam toward the stricken vehicle and fought frantically to free the trapped drivers – who by this stage had stopped moving. After a long battle with the jammed doors, the rescuers managed to drag the other drivers to safety. “If Marcus hadn’t have been there,” says a grateful Paul, “I very much doubt I’d be here today.” “We lost the championship,” concludes Marcus. “But at least we lost it for a good reaason!”

Elsewhere this week, there is the story of a police constable who conquered his deep-seated fear of fire to drag a child from a burning building; and a voluntary air-ambulance crew who came to the rescue of a woman trapped in a car after a serious road accident.

Friday 21st March at 8pm on five

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