PC Martin Willis was the first on the scene yesterday morning when an Iveco van crashed through a barrier near junction 44 on the A1 motorway just before 6am and was left teetering in the wind and in danger of falling on to the A64 below.
He said: “I just saw this van on top of the bridge through the railings and contacted control to say, ‘I’ve got to stop here, this looks very serious'. I walked on the hard shoulder to the incident and as I did so a lorry driver, who was not involved in the incident, shouted across to say there was a chap upside down in the van.
After signalling colleagues to close the road, PC Willis grabbed hold of the van’s rear axle to steady it and did his best to reassure the trapped man inside, who has suffered serious leg injuries.
He recalls: “I told the victim not to panic and said ‘we’re going to get you out of there, whatever you do, don’t move.' I then grabbed hold of the rear wheel and pulled inwards which helped to keep the van balanced. I was there for a good 15 minutes I think.”
The victim was rescued by crews from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service who used a winch to stabilise the van and pull it to safety in an operation taking over two hours. The van driver, a 22-year-old Bolton man, was taken to Leeds General Infirmary where he continues to be treated for serious leg injuries.
PC Willis added: "Every time a lorry went by I could see the van sway and I just thought, ‘It’s right over the A64, if this van goes over it will kill the driver.' Of course you’re also thinking ‘any minute now, something is going to come on the hard shoulder and hit me.'
"It was quiet a scary situation but this is the reality of the job we do. Sometimes you do have to take risks and if you need to help someone, you need to help them.”