THREE people who helped save an accident victim from a burning car wreck near Dubbo have been honoured with Australian Bravery Awards.
Charles Allan Mitchell of Cobar and Brock Lawrence and Katie Abbott from Brocklehurst were recognised for acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances after they helped to save the life of Jamie Manning on the evening of March 27, 2014. Mr Manning told the Daily Liberal he would be forever grateful to have the opportunity to be with his wife, Karen, and see their children Jedd, 14, Braydon, 12, and Lori, 7, grow up.
The 41-year-old has little recollection about colliding with a tree on his way home from work.
“It’s all a bit of a blur,” he said.
“But I do remember that I was on fire, trapped in the car and not able to get out. I was struggling to move and the flames were up near my chest.
“I lost a leg and an arm in the accident and suffered burns to 40 per cent of my body. My face was pretty much burnt off and is being rebuilt by doctors now.
“I am just so thankful to be alive and enormously appreciative to the people who saved me. Without their brave acts I would not be here.”
Charles Mitchell, 76, known to family and friends as Tom, and his wife Faye were travelling from Mendooran to Dubbo when they came across a utility slammed into an ironbark tree on the side of Forrest Road at Brocklehurst.
“We stopped and I went over to see if anyone was still inside,” Mr Mitchell said.
“I saw a man slumped up against the steering wheel. I could feel a pulse in his neck and knew he was still alive.
“I kept pulling on the door but couldn’t seem to get it open. The vehicle was smashed in on the left hand side and the driver’s legs appeared to be stuck in the well at the bottom of the vehicle. It didn’t look good at all.
“I went back to our vehicle and asked Faye to call triple 000. She had a terrible time with the emergency operator who kept asking for the name of the road. Faye kept saying it was the Mendooran to Dubbo road. It was very upsetting because we needed the emergency services immediately.
“I felt like grabbing the phone and abusing the hell out of the operator but that wouldn’t have done any good.
“I went back to the crash and could see a fire starting up under the top of the dash. I didn’t have water or anything to put it out.
“After about 15 minutes some other people arrived. We were trying to get the door to move and all of a sudden it came open.
“By that time the fire was burning the clothes on the man’s legs and also his hands. The hair on the front of his head was starting to singe.
“I had never seen a man burning and never want to see it again. The driver would have perished if we hadn’t been able to get him out. It doesn’t bear thinking about. The poor burning man hardly uttered a sound.”Charles Mitchell
“We still couldn’t get the man out and the fire was starting to spread. We had to really reef on his body to get him to safety.
“When we laid him on the ground there must have been about 15 cars at the scene. Some of the people may have been locals, others would have been travelling
“I had never seen a man burning and never want to see it again. The driver would have perished if we hadn’t been able to get him out. It doesn’t bear thinking about. The poor burning man hardly uttered a sound.”
Mr Mitchell contacted Mr Manning about five months after the accident and has visited him at his home.
“It was wonderful to see him,” Mr Mitchell said.
“He is happy as Larry to be alive.”
Mr Mitchell was dumbfounded when he received a letter about his bravery award.
“I couldn’t understand why they would want to give me an award,” he said.
“I am quite happy to receive it but I don’t feel that I did that much. Anyone with feeling would have stopped to help. I couldn’t have kept driving past.”
Brock Lawrence, 36, and his partner Katie Abbott, 32, were at their home about 300 metres from the accident site when they heard two loud bangs. Ms Abbott went outside and saw some tiny puffs of smoke in the trees. She heard a voice screaming “he‘s burning, he’s burning”.
“I went to get Brock and grabbed the small fire extinguisher we had purchased two days earlier,” she said.
“We drove to the accident and will never forget what we found.”
Ms Abbott, who was 37 weeks pregnant, stood behind Mr Lawrence as he tried to gain access to the crumpled vehicle.
The couple didn’t recognise their neighbour due to the extent of the burns on his face.
Mr Lawrence used the fire extinguisher to quell the flames taking hold of Mr Manning’s body.
Ms Abbott grabbed a knife from their LandCruiser so that Mr Lawrence could cut the seat belt.
“I then realised that Jamie’s leg was jammed in the foot well of the badly damaged vehicle,” Mr Lawrence said.
“I pulled and pulled until Jamie finally came free. I found out later that I had dislocated his hip but that was the least of his worries. He could so easily have been burned alive.”
“It was quite shocking when the paperwork arrived. We had to read it a few times and shed a few tears.”Brock Lawrence and Katie Abbott
When Mr Lawrence and Mr Mitchell got Mr Manning out of the car Ms Abbott provided first aid assistance.
“His body was still alight and we used jackets and whatever else we could find to try to put out the fire,” she said.
“The ground was still damp from recent rain so I put mud on his boots and legs. The smell of the burning flesh was horrific.
“I had never seen anything like it in my life and in all honesty I didn’t think Jamie would make it. I was quite shocked when he gained consciousness and started to talk.”
Mr Lawrence was amazed by Mr Manning’s stoic demeanour.
“I was talking to Jamie trying to keep him conscious and told him that an ambulance was on its way,” Mr Lawrence said.
“Despite the burns and dreadful injuries he told me that he was alright and didn’t need an ambulance.
“I was worried about Jamie and also about Katie. I thought she might end up having the baby on the spot. Our daughter, Anna, arrived less than a fortnight later.”
Mr Lawrence and Ms Abbott are proud to receive their bravery awards but did not expect to be honoured by the Australian Government.
“We were pleased to be able to help,” they said.
“It was quite shocking when the paperwork arrived. We had to read it a few times and shed a few tears.”
Mr Lawrence and Ms Abbott knew Mr Manning through mutual friends. Since the accident their friendship has deepened.
“It is wonderful for Jamie and his family that he survived,” they said.