Kelsale: Railway crash hero tells life-saving tale

Paul Sheridan with the fire extinguisher he used to fight the flames engulfing a car involved in a c

Paul Sheridan with the fire extinguisher he used to fight the flames engulfing a car involved in a collision with a train at North Green level crossing, Kelsale. - Credit: Tom Potter

But for the actions of heroic Suffolk man Paul Sheridan, The EADT could well be reporting on a tragedy today.

The 49-year-old maintenance man said “adrenaline just took over” as he used a household fire extinguisher to fight back the flames engulfing a wrecked car, which had collided with a train directly outside his home.

Mr Sheridan, who lives in a cottage at the North Green level-crossing near Kelsale, risked his own safety to save the 21-year-old driver, who he would soon realise was someone he already knew from work.

The crash happened on Saturday morning when the 9.07am train from Lowestoft to London smashed into the front of a blue Vauxhall Corsa, sending it spinning off the level crossing.

Mr Sheridan, who is part of the maintenance team at Cliff House Holiday Park in Dunwich, said: “I heard the screaming of the train’s brakes and then a massive collision. It sounded like a jet engine.

“I think adrenaline just took over. The door was stuck so I yanked it open.

“He was hanging out of the door but still trapped in the car. He must have been unconscious for 15 minutes but then the pain brought him round. It must have been horrific.

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“One of the first things I did was cut the battery out and throw it away. Then I saw flames and ran to get the extinguisher.”

Mr Sheridan’s wife, Karen, was on the phone to the emergency services as he sprinted to the bottom of the garden to grab a fire extinguisher, which he then used to snuff out the flames, by then spreading dangerously close to leaking petrol. “The fire kept on starting again, but it eventually went out,” said Mr Sheridan, who would later recognise the driver as Saxmundham man Josh Smith, a barman at the Cliff House Holiday Park’s 12 Lost Churches.

Police, firefighters arrived at the scene shortly after 10am to find him trapped and badly hurt inside the car.

Fire crews from Leiston, Aldeburgh, Halesworth, Southwold, and a rescue vehicle from Princes Street, Ipswich, used hydraulic cutting gear to remove the roof.

Paramedics then went to work as the injured driver was freed from the wreckage.

Mr Sheridan, who was still looking on, said: “When they cleared the blood off his face I realised I knew him,” he said. “I then saw he was wearing his bar staff shirt and must have been going to work.

“Apparently he’s OK but has some broken bones and terrible cuts over his face.

“He’s such a polite boy. He was very lucky. They reckon a split second later and there would have been nothing left of the car.

“I take my hat off to the emergency services - they were fantastic.”

An ambulance, a duty officer and the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) attended the scene, from where Mr Smith was airlifted to Ipswich Hospital in a serious condition

Some 70 passengers were travelling on the Ipswich bound train, which was travelling at about 45mph when it collided with the car. Neither the passengers, nor the driver, sustained serious injuries.

The crossing at North Green has warning lights to inform motorists when it is safe to proceed but does not have a barrier.

Mr Sheridan said: “In the late 80s they had a barrier and a phone here but it was taken away and replaced with the lights.

“Hopefully something will be done to prevent something worse happening.”

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