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Hero airman from RAF Lakenheath honoured for saving three men after a Greek F-16 jet crashed at a Spanish airbase

PUBLISHED: 12:44 13 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:45 13 March 2015

Smoke rises from a military base after a plane crash in Albacete, Spain, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. A Greek F-16 fighter jet crashed into other planes on the ground during NATO training in southeastern Spain Monday, killing at least 10 people, Spain's Defense Ministry said. Another 13 people were injured in the incident at the Los Llanos base, which sent flames and a plume of black smoke billowing into the air, a Defense Ministry official said. (AP Photo/Josema Moreno)

Smoke rises from a military base after a plane crash in Albacete, Spain, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. A Greek F-16 fighter jet crashed into other planes on the ground during NATO training in southeastern Spain Monday, killing at least 10 people, Spain's Defense Ministry said. Another 13 people were injured in the incident at the Los Llanos base, which sent flames and a plume of black smoke billowing into the air, a Defense Ministry official said. (AP Photo/Josema Moreno)

The valour and courage of a hero airman, who risked his own life to save three others after a jet crash in Spain, will be honoured today.

RAF Lakenheath’s Staff Sergeant Gregory Swarz pulled three French airmen from the burning wreckage of a Greek F-16 jet on January 26 this year.

The maintenance airman from the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing rushed to the aid of his French counterparts in the moments after the tragic crash that killed 10 people at Los Llanos Airbase.

He told The EADT: “I was pretty scared but I thought it was the right thing to do.

“I was behind an airplane working and I just heard a small bang, I came round my airplane and saw the fire.

“I ran over there to grab the first person. I put out his fire pretty well and ripped what ever clothing he had off him”

The plane was billowing black smoke and was burning intensely, with Staff Sgt Swarz only able to use his bare hands to put out the flames.

After pulling the first man from the wreckage, the airman of six years rushed back to grab the second man, leaving him with colleagues who were just arriving.

Without any regard for his own burns, and suffering from smoke inhalation, he then returned for the third man.

He said: “I returned for the third person who was an amputee and by the time I had dragged him clear I was exhausted.”

The Sicily born engineer explained that training kicked in, helping him to stop the third man from bleeding to death.

He said: “I made a tourniquet with my belt as he had lost his right arm, a little below the elbow. The tourniquet stopped him from bleeding.”

The brave airman, who has been based at Lakenheath for two years, will be awarded the prestigious Airman’s Medal at the Liberty Wing’s Maintenance Professional of the Year Awards today.

He added: “I am very honoured by the medal.”

He has kept in touch with his three French colleagues, all who are recovering well in a hospital in Paris.

He said: “I keep in touch with the second man, as he has the most free time. I also speak to his wife and they keep me updated.”

The crash happened at a NATO training exercise and killed eight French groundcrew, two Greek pilots and injured dozens more.

The F-16 is believed to have suffered a loss of power shortly after takeoff, careering into several planes on the ground.

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