Drink-drive danger: MM reporter ‘saved’ from car crash in Manchester fire and rescue service demonstration

By Nicholas Watmough & Ben Burrows

A Mancunian Matters reporter was used as a car crash dummy in a fire and rescue demonstration at St Albert’s Square this afternoon.

Reporter Nicholas Watmough, 23, was rescued from a crumpled vehicle by crews from Manchester Central Fire Station, as part of a summer campaign to raise drink driving awareness.

“It was incredibly intense and claustrophobic,” he said.

“I felt safe, but the sounds of breaking glass and mechanical equipment near my head really made me realise the seriousness of the situation.”

It took just over 20 minutes to shatter the car’s windows, gain access to the test-victims, remove the vehicle’s roof, and take the two passengers away on stretchers.

TAKING OUT THE WINDOWS: Rescuers remove the glass

“We have to be extremely careful for spinal injuries, and protect the passengers from broken glass and metal,” said fireman Phil Andrews, who assisted our reporter inside the car.

Protective plastic covering and a neck brace were used on each test-victim, and 42-tonne-pressure vices were used to dismantle the car safely.

Mark Farrell, Watch Commander with the Manchester Central Fire Station, said he hoped today’s demonstration would make people realise the terrible implications of drink driving.

DOORS OFF: Rescuers begin to remove the doors

He said: “We pull more people out of drink driving car crashes than we do house fires.

“We’ve got a strong team of brave, experienced young lads, but it’s traumatizing no matter how many wrecks you see. It never gets easier.”

The Manchester Fire and Rescue service have to send at least nine firemen and two engines to each crash, sometimes with two-to-three call-outs a day.

Another volunteer, 20-year-old Manchester University student Hannah Bisford, said it was amazing but terrifying to experience the firefighters working first-hand.

“I just imagine how awful it would be if the vehicle were upside down or on fire, something that I know happens a lot in drink-driving accidents,” she added.

Officers say 141 collisions occurred during 2011 as a result of drivers being over the limit. The year also saw a shocking rise in road deaths with 75 people losing their lives on the roads of the county, an increase of 42 per cent on the previous year.

REMAINS: The doors after being removed from the vehicle

Inspector John Armfield, from Greater Manchester Police’s Roads Policing Unit, warned against the temptations of drink-driving, especially over the Jubilee weekend.

“Today should show people the horrible reality of the effects of drink driving. Just don’t do it, even after a single drink, that’s the only answer,” he said.

HALFWAY THROUGH: Passengers, including Nic, remain inside the vehicle

“We also want people to consider the social stigma and dangers attached to this sort of behaviour; you can lose family, friends, your job, and face a prison sentence, even if you’re lucky enough to avoid an accident.”

Further events are planned in each of the Manchester boroughs over the summer, with an increase in risk checks and breathalysers on the roads.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

THE ROOF COMES OFF: Huge cutting equipment tackled the roof

TOUGH WORK: Cutting through the final bit of roof

SAWING THROUGH: The windscreen is cut out

SUPPORT: Rescue officers hold passengers’ necks throughout the operation

CARRIED TO SAFETY: A passenger is removed on a stretcher

END OF THE ORDEAL: MM’s Nic is carried to safety


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