A garage employee saved the life of a Murrow pensioner yesterday (Thursday) after he was engulfed in flames in his car.
Laurie Barber (79) amazingly managed to drive his Kia Carens away from busy roads onto Back Road, Murrow, as flames filled the inside of the car.
Two carpet fitters working along the road spotted the car driving erratically with flames coming from the windows at around 3pm and flagged down Wayne Cox from GB Autos, who was out doing a test drive.
Wayne (29) said the car had stopped, only metres from an electrical pole, and he saw a man nearby.
“He was stumbling around near the car,” he said. “I shouted at him to get away. I couldn’t see at that point he was on fire.”
Wayne, with the help of one of the carpet fitters, got Mr Barber onto the ground and rolled him to put out the flames. He then dragged the pensioner away from the car, trying not to hurt him any more, fearful that the fire would make the car explode.
Gary Brown, proprietor of GB Autos, was called and rushed down to the scene with employees Dale Burton (19) and Mick Drobac (50) where they put out the fire with an extinguisher.
The fire had melted Mr Barber’s quilted jacket, causing severe burns down his buttocks and legs. The men gave their jackets to try and keep him warm in the freezing conditions and Gary sat with him, trying to keep him awake until the emergency services arrived.
“I have never experienced anything like it,” Gary said. “It was horrendous. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
The fire service said the fire started accidentally by smoking materials from a pipe. Mr Barber’s partner Sheila Hunns said he insisted he was not smoking and that the fire had started underneath the storage section between the front seats of the car.
“He said smoke was coming up from between the seats, then flames came up and ignited his butane lighter. The lighter exploded, sending fire everywhere.”
Mr Barber is a community car driver and had been out on a job in Guyhirn. It is not known where he was when the fire started, but it is clear from the state of the car it had burned for some time.
Mrs Hunns said her partner was trapped in the car for a time and had to wait for the flames to burn through the seatbelt webbing so he could escape.
Mr Barber was taken to Peterborough City Hospital yesterday and transferred to the Broomfield Specialist Burns Unit in Chelmsford, Essex, at around 10pm last night. He is expected to remain there for some weeks.
The extent of the burns is not yet known, but they are believed to cover 33 per cent of his body. They are expecting him to undergo skin grafts in the future and he may lose a section of finger on his left hand that was damaged when he tried to put out the fire.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who helped Laurie,” Mrs Hunns said.