Off-duty firefighters raced to the aid of boy cyclist

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service Awards 2016. Ben Lewis, 10, with Alan Churchman, right, and Philip S

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service Awards 2016. Ben Lewis, 10, with Alan Churchman, right, and Philip Soanes. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Brave firefighters, who have gone above and beyond the call the duty, were recognised for their achievements at a special awards ceremony.

The service of crews from across the county was recognised at the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Awards ceremony, held at Norwich Castle last week.

The event was particularly special for Ben Lewis, who went with his family to honour two off-duty Great Yarmouth firefighters who cared for him after he was knocked off his bike by a car 12 months ago.

Alan Churchman, from Great Yarmouth Red Watch, and Philip Soanes, from Great Yarmouth Green Watch, had been fixing a leak in Mr Soanes’s Volkswagen camper van when they heard a screech of tyres and a nasty thud, and saw Ben, then aged nine, lying on the road.

Mr Churchman grabbed his trauma bag from his house.

Initially, Ben appeared not to be breathing, but started again after Mr Soanes checked his airways.

The two firefighters continued to comfort Ben, and his very shocked mum and other family members, until the ambulance arrived.

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He was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, where he underwent surgery.

Since then, he has had a number of scans, and was unable to play his beloved football for several weeks, but has now made a full recovery, with just a scar to remind him of his ordeal.

Speaking after the ceremony where she presented the firefighters with a certificate of commendation, Ben’s mother Alisha described what happened after she received the phone call that every parent dreads.

She said that, as she got in her car to rush to the scene, she was almost physically unable to drive because her urge to run to her son was so great.

She did drive, and said: “I could see Ben lying on the pavement. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. The firemen were there and had him in the recovery position.

“There was blood on the pavement from his head and he was screaming out in pain.

“I could not do anything; I felt really helpless.

“As a mum you want to protect him but could not, but luckily they were there and could protect him.”

She added: “I will never be able to repay them. There’s not enough thank you’s, so just to come here and to see they are getting some recognition is wonderful.

“I’m grateful to them every second of every day.”

Patrick O’Neil, an off duty retained firefighter at Loddon, also received a certificate of commendation.

He was taking his son to a time trial cycling event hosted by Great Yarmouth Cycling Club when an adult cyclist collapsed.

The man was not moving, so Mr O’Neill ran over to help the man, and performed CPR on him.

The cyclist was not breathing and had no pulse, so, while calling for assistance, the firefighter continued to give CPR.

The ambulance crew had to shock the cyclist three times with the defibrillator, and administer medication, before he regained a pulse.

Although he did not previously know the cyclist, Mr O’Neill visited the patient a week later in hospital.

He is now back in the saddle, and is riding in excess of 100 miles a week.

The ambulance crews and medical staff have no doubt that, without his actions, the cyclist would not have survived.

It transpired that the cyclist had suffered a heart attack, and further tests have shown that no brain damage occurred thanks to Mr O’Neill’s swift and effective use of CPR.

Nathan Calvert, from Acle fire station and Mark Trudgill from Great Yarmouth fire station also received certificates for their “long and meritorious” service as firefighters.