One year on from a serious road traffic collision in Leeds, a man saved from the crash has been reunited with the firefighters who rescued him. Thomas Dulson, 24, was working as a delivery driver on the A1 early on the morning of December 1 last year when his van hit ice and span off the road – leaving him hanging off a bridge 40ft above the A64.
Upon arrival crews from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) were faced with a precarious task to try and free Tom, who was stuck upside down inside in the driver’s seat with two broken legs. Crews quickly assessed the scene and secured the vehicle before devising a tactical plan of how to release Tom, without making his injuries any worse.
Crews from Garforth fire station were first on the scene with Incident Commander Phil Swallow alongside Cleckheaton Fire Station’s Technical Rescue Unit. Crews from Wetherby and Killingbeck also attended.
Getting to Tom was going to be very difficult because of the positioning of the vehicle. Crews had to use specialist cutting equipment to tunnel through the side of the vehicle before Phil was able to crawl in and speak to Tom, also allowing a paramedic into the confined space to assess Tom’s injuries.
Phil was a lifeline for Tom, who was fully conscious, and aware of the predicament he was in.
In total the rescue took two hours to perform and involved 14 firefighters.
Tom was rushed to hospital leaving firefighters not knowing what the outcome would be for him.
Now one year on from the crash Tom has had five operations to try and reconstruct his legs, including metal pins inserted into the bones of his left leg to help it heal properly, and a skin graft. He hopes to return to work in the new year- but knows if could have been a very different story without the heroics of the firefighters.
Tom said: “I literally lost control and careered into a bridge – I don’t remember much after that – and the next thing I knew I woke up hanging upside down in my cab. When the crews arrived from West Yorkshire Fire Service they were amazing- they kept me so calm talking me through everything and trying to make everything as easy as possible on me – I can’t actually put into words how good they were.
“It’s been a long road to recovery for me and I still feel nervous about the thought of getting back in a van – but I know things could have been much worse.
“I’ve wanted to come and see the crews for ages – and a year on – and on the mend feels like a good time
“All I can say to them is thank you.”
Figures from West Yorkshire Police show in the last five years they have attended 903 crashes where slippery roads due to adverse weather were an influencing factor. Of those crashes five were sadly fata l- and 121 were described as ‘serious’. January, February and March saw the biggest spike in these types of collisions.
Winter driving tips
- Keep well back from the road user in front in icy or snowy weather. Stopping distances can be ten times greater.
- When the roads are icy, drive at slow speed in as high a gear as possible; accelerate and brake very gently
- Check brakes, lights, wiper blades, and oil and washer fluid level- and ensure tyres meet legal requirements– and although the legal minimum is 1.6mm for cars we recommend preferably a tread depth of 3mm.
- Carry water and de-icer in the car with you – and if you are going on a longer journey, bring food, hot drinks, blankets and a fully-charged mobile phone.
- Plan ahead. Check the forecast, road conditions and consider alternative routes. Allow extra time for your journey and check your planned route is free from delays.
- Always clear your windscreen properly of ice and snow and ensure that it is fully de-misted inside before setting off.