Top national honour for Wisbech horror crash hero
A Wisbech man's peace and tranquility in his garden was shattered by a loud crash nearby and then the sight of a massive plume of water cascading over his neighbour's ten-foot-high hedge.
And when David McReath OBE rushed to see the cause he was confronted by a horror scene. A car had crashed into a drainage dyke which ran alongside the road.
The weather was cold sub-zero temperatures with light snow on the ground and a car was submerged upside down in the water-filled drainage dyke running alongside Sutton Road. Only the four wheels and exhaust pipe were showing above the water.
With no thought for his own safety, David went chest deep into the bitterly cold water in a bid to open the car and get the driver to safety. However, he was unable to open any of the doors as they were wedged against the sides of the dyke.
Thankfully others had arrived on the scene and between them they managed to rock the car and David then succeeded in opening one of the rear doors and pulled out the young driver who was coughing up blood and water and very close to drowning.
Now David has been awarded one of the country's top national life-saving honours, a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Parchment and he has also won the personal praise of Andrew Chapman, secretary of the Society.
"It was very much touch and go whether the car could be got into a position where a door could be opened to get the young man out," said Mr Chapman. "Fortunately, those present acted rapidly and David then succeeded in pulling the young man to safety.
"He was in a bad way but thanks to the rapid response of David and the others who turned up he was taken to hospital where he went on to survive. I think it's fair to say that David was the right person in the right place at the right time and he undoubtedly saved the young man's life. He richly deserves the award he is to receive."
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 was one of a select number of organisations to 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.