Two men who risked their lives by diving into the Grand Union Canal to rescue a disabled man after his car crashed into the water and sank are to receive top national bravery and life-saving honours.
The horrific incident took place near the Fenny Road layby near Mill Lane, Stoke Hammond on the morning of April 22 last year.
A 72-year-old Newton Longville man was pulled from his car seconds before he would have drowned.
Simon Curtis, also from Newton Longville, was running by the side of the canal when he saw the driver lose control and crash into the water while trying to park his Mercedes 4x4.
Mr Curtis immediately jumped into the canal and went to the car which was by this time sinking. He was joined by another passer-by, Graeme Carter from Ledburn, and between them they tried to open the door to get the driver out.
The car was steadily filling up with water but they could not get the door open because of the pressure of water from outside.
Then, just as the car became fully submerged the water pressure inside and out equalised and with seconds to spare they managed to open the door and pull the driver to safety.
Thames Valley Police who recommended that the two men should receive awards said later that they believed “that a potentially serious fatal incident was avoided” by their actions.
Now both men have been awarded Royal Humane Society Testimonials on Parchment and have also won the personal praise of Andrew Chapman, the Society’s secretary.
As he announced the awards at the Society’s London headquarters, Mr Chapman said: “This was a very close run thing. As the police said, what could have been a serious fatal incident was avoided thanks to the two rescuers.
“They did a magnificent job in getting the driver out in the nick of time and richly deserve the awards they are to receive. They truly were the right people in the right place at the right time.”
Mr Chapman added: “Amazingly I’m told that Simon Curtis who broke off his run to carry out the rescue, didn’t even ask for someone to give him a lift home after the incident, but carried on running, heading for home, after the driver had been handed over to the emergency services.”
Mr Carter told the LBO at the time of the incident: “The runner was already in the water when I arrived. He explained that the trapped man was disabled and therefore could not use his legs to free himself.
“I got in the canal as soon as I realised it was necessary because the emergency services were potentially a way off. The runner had already said that he couldn’t lift the man out on his own. It wasn’t a worry, just very cold.
“As the car was slowly sinking, the door would not open due to the pressure of the water.
“Whilst the emergency services were arriving and when the car was almost completely submerged the pressure equalised and we were able to open the door, freeing the man and help him out of the canal.
“From what I could tell, the disabled man was a bit shaken up and very cold but seemed unharmed from the initial incident.”
No date has yet been fixed for presentation of the awards, but it is expected to take place in the near future.
The roots of the Royal Humane Society stretch back more than two centuries. The Queen is its patron and its president is Princess Alexandra. It is the premier national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life.
It was founded in 1774 by two of the day’s eminent medical men, William Hawes and Thomas Cogan. Their primary motive was to promote techniques of resuscitation.
However, as it emerged that numerous people were prepared to put their own lives at risk to save others, the awards scheme evolved, and today a variety of awards are made depending on the bravery involved.
The Society also awards non health care professionals who perform a successful resuscitation. Since it was set up the Society has considered over 87,000 cases and made over 200,000 awards. The Society is a registered charity which receives no public funding and is dependent on voluntary donations.
It is one of a select number of organisations to recently receive a donation from the Patron’s fund which was set up to acknowledge work done by organisations of which the Queen is the patron to mark her 90th birthday.