M11: Off-duty paramedic commended for bravery in helping to save life of driver trapped in crashed burning van
An off-duty paramedic who helped save a trapped driver's life when his vehicle crashed and caught fire on the M11 has been commended for his bravery.
Ashley Stowell had just finished a 12-hour shift when he came across a van trapped between two lorries, with the driver stuck inside, barely breathing and with life-threatening injuries. The vehicle then burst into flames.
Emergency services were unable to reach the scene for about 40 minutes because of another serious collision on the M11.
Mr Stowell put out the blaze with a small fire extinguisher he had with him and gave the stricken driver emergency first aid, maintaining his airway and his blood pressure.
He has been commended by Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington for his bravery, quick thinking and decisive actions.
On the night of February 13, 2019, Mr Stowell, an advanced paramedic practitioner, was returning home after a 12-hour shift at Peterborough Urgent Treatment Centre when he was diverted off the A1 and onto the M11. He was first at the scene of the collision involving the van and two lorries.
He said: “I've been first on scene with the ambulance service many times but there's normally support and you have your ambulance with all the equipment. I had only my own medical case and oxygen that I carry in my car anyway, which was a great asset.
“The van was trapped between two lorries, so of course there was fuel everywhere. My concern was not only for the casualty in the van but also the vehicles which were still trying to squeeze past in the outside lane.
“It was about 9.30pm, it was dark, there was fuel on the ground.
"I got to the man and saw he was trapped and barely breathing and had assessed there was no-one else inside, then the van sparked and caught fire.
“When I put the fire out I was able to concentrate on him, knowing he was the only casualty. I tried to get oxygen and fluids into him to stabilise him.
“Eventually, fire crews from Stansted arrived, followed by Essex roads policing officers and the ambulance service.
"When the fire officer came over and put his arm round my shoulder and said ‘We’re here, mate’, that was the nicest feeling I’ve had in 35 years of working closely with the emergency services. That 40 minutes felt like an eternity."
The van driver was freed and taken to hospital. He survived the collision.
Chief Constable Harrington said: “It was exceptional for Mr Stowell not only to provide the man with vital medical attention but also to put out a fire which could have engulfed the vehicles involved in the collision.
“We say the police are the public and the public are the police – it is one of our founding principles. The police are citizens in uniform and that is the link as we police our communities and help to keep them safe.”
Mr Stowell said of the commendation: “It was lovely to be recognised, a lovely gesture. I feel really proud.”