Three officers who saved the life of a man who became a human fireball have been honoured by The Society for the Preservation of Life from Fire. PCs Paul Oliver, Paul Jackson and Stephen Brant tried to beat out flames engulfing the man who had poured petrol over himself before setting it alight.
The incident took place early one morning after a woman in Ferryhill warned police her former partner was threatening to set himself on fire. She said he was carrying a fuel can and heading towards a petrol station.
The trio, all roads policing officers, joined colleagues searching for the man, and PC Oliver located his vehicle in a layby near Metal Bridge. Minutes later PC Oliver was joined by PCs Jackson and Brant, and the trio smelled petrol as they spotted the man running along a nearby dirt track.
They followed him and, as they approached, the man emptied the remaining petrol over his head and set himself alight.
The man dropped to the ground as the three officers ran towards him and tried unsuccessfully to put out the flames. PC Jackson removed his body armour and used it in an attempt to smother the flames but they could only be put out using fire extinguishers brought to the scene by other officers.
PC Jackson gave the injured man oxygen and officers called for the police helicopter to take him to hospital in Middlesbrough. Officers travelled with him in the helicopter and continued to care for him until he arrived at hospital.
Chief Inspector Alison Jackson, head of the Cleveland and Durham Special Operations Unit, who presented two of the officers with their awards, said: “These officers showed great courage and bravery by following this man into a potentially dangerous situation and putting their own safety aside in a bid to save his life. Their quick thinking and determination to preserve the man’s life in extremely difficult circumstances is not only a tremendous credit to them but also to the force.”