Hero van driver tells of ordeal

A “HEROIC” van driver last night told the EADT how he risked his own life to drive his blazing van out of a busy Suffolk village - in a bid to stop a cloud of dangerous fumes engulfing residents.

A “HEROIC” van driver last night told the EADT how he risked his own life to drive his blazing van out of a busy Suffolk village - in a bid to stop a cloud of dangerous fumes engulfing residents.

Realising the gravity of the situation because of his toxic and explosive cargo, Chris Earith decided to try and take the vehicle to safety.

Driving away from the centre of Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, and into open country in a desperate bid to get to safety he risked his life as the flames crept closer.

With 11 years experience as a pest controller Mr Earith knew the consequences could be terrible if the chemicals he was carrying were released into the atmosphere.


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The 58 year-old, from Pakenham, made it as far as the edge of the village before flames forced him to ditch the vehicle.

Both fire crews from Bury called to tackle the flames and two police men were hospitalised by the fumes, which fire chiefs said last night could still threaten residents.

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Mr Earith said: “I was driving along when I saw smoke coming out of the engine and I realised I had to get out of Thurston, but the flames started coming round the back of cab and I just had to stop and jump out.

“I knew I had load of rat poison, insecticide and shotgun pellets - I knew they could explode.

“I'm not that worried about it now, I am more concerned about my business - everything I owned was in that van.”

Mr Earith's step daughter, Clair Archer, 18, who was one of the first people on the scene, said: “I'm proud of what he did - it was heroic. I heard his car had exploded - I just rushed down here and there were firemen just lying on the grass because they had been exposed to the fumes.

“The car was all gone and entirely burnt out - when I saw that I knew it was serious and I just worried about Chris.”

John Smith, 18, a student at Thurston College was only a hundred yards from where Mr Earith was forced to abandon his car.

He told of the concerns felt by students when emergency services said what had happened.

He said: “All I heard was a big bang and I was told it was a Land Rover which had exploded. And for the last lessons of the day we weren't allowed outside for security reasons.”

Another neighbour, Julian Marks, faced an anxious wait for news when he arrived home from work because his two Jack Russell dogs had been left at home, close to the release of noxious vapours which hospitalised emergency service personnel.

He said: “I'm very worried for my two dogs I've just got here from work and found my house cordoned off.

“When I called my wife and told her about the fire and the chemicals the first thing she asked me was how are the dogs.”

Local resident Tracey Starie was kept from her home by the cordon around the site as environmental health teams and fire officers cleaned the contaminated ground.

She said: “I'm concerned for my son Harvey and my home. Although he has been at school all day my windows have been open all day.”

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