Gympie heroes relive moment they pulled man from fiery car
CALL it instinct or not - there was no time for two Gympie plumbers to question why they joined the frantic efforts to pull a man from a burning car just seconds before it went up in flames in a Gympie street last year.
Mark Stewart and his apprentice Will Lewis had just returned from a job at 7.30am when they saw a car flipped on its side on Chapple St, last June.
A man was on the scene, trying to help the driver - a 73-year-old man who was groggy and trapped in the car that had careened the bank and track near the Mary Valley Rattler and landed on its side, five metres back on the road.
Urgently, the three men tried to free the driver by flipping the car.
"We couldn't do it - so we just kept speaking to him - making sure he was alright," Mr Stewart said.
The police arrived and at the same the bonnet started to smoke, he said.
"The police eventually came and as soon as they turned up the bonnet started to smoke."
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In a frantic effort Gympie officers Sonny Mayo and Jeremy Gardiol bashed and kicked at the upturned windscreen of the car with their batons, while Alan Girdler - the first man at the scene - tried to pry the broken windscreen off with his hands.
The situation was reaching fever pitch as smoke from the bonnet was increasing and fumes were pouring into the car, Mr Stewart said, but finally enough of the windscreen gave way from the continuous hits and the men could finally get to him.
"At the end of it all the five of us reached in and dragged him (out)," Mr Stewart said.
"Two seconds later the bonnet and the driver seat where he was sitting all went up in flames."
Mr Stewart said the events unfolded so quickly, and while he was unsure about whether the car would catch fire and explode, he did not want to leave until the man was safe.
"I think everyone wanted to get away from the car - we didn't know if it was going to explode.
"No one wanted to see anyone get hurt.
"It could have ended a lot worse - the quick thinking of the officers (was incredible)."
This week the pair were awarded a Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner's Certificate for their efforts in a Gympie ceremony, alongside Mr Girdler and the two Gympie officers.
Alan Girdler, who saw the accident unfold and was the first to arrive at crash, had cut his hands when he helped rip the glass from the car.
"When you saw that flame coming out the side of the bonnet, we just had to get him out," he said.
The incredible rescue gained national attention last year, when the Gympie officers appeared on national morning television show Sunrise.
While they didn't ask to be in the spotlight they said the media attention had helped show the positive side to policing.
"A lot of time the public see the enforcement side of us, where we write tickets and they sometimes feel it's unjust," Constable Gardiol said.
"They rarely see the other side where we're helping people."