Rathfriland man hailed hero after pulling driver from burning car

Barbara Boyd


Barbara Boyd

A RATHFRILAND man has been hailed a hero after he pulled a driver from a burning car.

Father-of-two William McMullen saved the life of an unconscious motorist following a head-on crash on Saturday (1 September).

William was heading for a race meeting at Kirkistown with his family when the near-fatal accident happened on the Portaferry Road.

Speaking from his Lissize Avenue home, William who is a motorsports fan, told The Outlook what happened.

“It was around 8am and I was heading to do flag marshal that day at Kirkistown and there was a young lad coming towards us on the Portaferry Road near Greyabbey.

“He was driving a white Renault Clio and it was travelling in the opposite direction towards Newtownards,” he said.

“He was coming towards us and there was a tight corner and he seemed to be going too fast.

“He tried to correct the car and it oversteered and he clipped the back of us on the way past and I stopped.”

He continued: “I looked into my rear view mirror and could see his car was about two feet in the air and was doing a 360 turn and that was him coming off a head-on collision with a Mercedes van that had been behind us.”

William, who is a member of Rathfriland Motor Club and North Armagh Motorcycle and Car Club, had completed a first aid course last year at the Isle of Man TT.

William and wife Hazel who says she is "so proud" of his heroics. William had just completed a first aid course before the Isle of Man TT this year.  

He says his first aid training instinctively kicked in at the scene of the accident and he knew what to do.

“I had completed my IMC (Incident Management Course) just last May with St John Ambulance, but you never really expect to have to use it.

“My wife, two kids and brother were with me in the car and I just ran back to the Clio when I stopped my car.

“The whole front of van was completely destroyed and I just shouted for someone to phone the emergency services.”

William says by the time he got back to the car it was already on fire and the driver was unconscious and slumped across the two front seats.

“I managed to get the driver’s seat pushed down and got him onto it again and I checked him over and knew I didn’t have much time before the car would burst into flames.
“There was a taxi driver who stopped and he used his fire extinguisher to help and it put the flames out a wee bit, enough to give me another few seconds with the driver.
“However, I could see the flames were starting to come again around the driver’s door and I could see it was starting to get bad and I just pulled the driver out of the car,” he said.

The Rathfriland man said it was about two or three minutes from he got the driver out of the car until it went up in flames.
He said: “Two home help women also stopped to help and the taxi driver was there too and we lifted him across the road and onto the footpath.
“An off-duty trauma doctor had also arrived and was attending to the young man, but the car was up in flames by the time the emergency services got to us.
“The trauma doctor was able to assess him and check his blood sugars but he was drifting in and out of consciousness and it was just enough to say his name, but he wasn’t making sense and he was then taken off to hospital.
“The driver of the van was dazed and shocked by what had happened, he was injured, but had managed to get himself out of the van while I was treating the man in the car.”

William says he never thought of his own safety while dealing with the fire.
“My first aid just seemed to kick in and I just wanted to get him out and to safety. I was just relieved when I spoke to the man’s mother and was told that he has been moved from ICU to high dependency in the Royal Victoria Hospital.
“His mother contacted me on messenger and wanted to thank me and let me know how he was. I couldn’t relax until I found out that he was going to be okay,” he said.

William says the young man’s mother now wants to wait until he has recovered and come down to Rathfriland to thank him in person for saving his life.
“People on Facebook and others have called me a hero, but I don’t feel like I did something that someone else wouldn’t have done.
“As the flames started to get closer I knew I had to get him out of the car and I didn’t have time to think about the fire.
“I am just glad that the young lad is making progress and I am just glad that I could help,” he said.

Meanwhile, William’s wife Hazel said she could not be prouder of her brave husband.
She said: “I couldn’t be any more proud of him and he keeps saying he’s not a hero, but he is. He’s our hero!
“It was a scary experience, but it could have been a lot different. I am just so proud of what he did.”

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