Sledgehammer heroes rescue man from Islington blaze trap
PUBLISHED: 10:15 28 October 2010 | UPDATED: 14:47 29 October 2010
TWO heroic neighbours smashed open a window with a sledgehammer to rescue a man from a burning flat – as a woman jumped from a second-floor balcony to escape the inferno.
Mark Davies and Barry Taplin sped into action as the trapped man screamed for help and scrabbled around in vain for the key to the front door of the flat in Wynford Road, Islington.
They then dragged him through the gap in the broken glass. The man was taken to hospoital and treated for minor burns.
After saving the first victim, the quick-thinking duo ran downstairs and to the back of the block to help carry the woman to safety as burning debris rained around her.
The 38-year-old tenant had been knocked unconscious by the fall and is believed to have broken her pelvis in two places.
Mr Taplin, 53, who lives on the first floor, and is disabled with both feet amputated, said: “There was an explosion. I went to my door and saw Mark running up the stairs. He tried to kick the door in but couldn’t get it done. I got a sledgehammer and Mark swung at the window. He’s the real hero.
“The man was screaming out for help and the door was locked from the inside. We dragged him out of the window. It was terrifying, but you don’t think of your own safety. You just have to do what you think is right at the time. It was two people trapped and we tried to save their lives. Once the fire crew were there we walked away – they didn’t need us in the way – but we had to do what we had to do.”
More than 30 residents – including pensioners, children and disabled people – fled the block of flats, which is managed by the Peabody Trust housing association. The rescue took place at 1am on Thursday.
Mr Davies, 45, a plumber and heating engineer, who lives on the first floor, said: “There were no heroes – just a group of people reacting very quickly.
“Everyone in the block was pulling together. A few people had good ideas really quickly and it worked.
“We didn’t want to move the woman after she hit the ground but there were flames coming over her from the flat so we got her out of the way, over the fence and into the ambulance.”
The fire gutted the flat and damaged much of the one above, but luckily the occupant Claire Crowhurst had been staying with a friend. She turned up the next morning to find her home in ruins.
The 32-year-old dog walker said: “I don’t know if I would have made it. My bedroom was destroyed – the area near where my head would have been is melted away.
“I’m devastated. I have worked so hard to get my home the way it was.”
Andrea Neil, Mr Davies’s partner, said: “There were flames coming three feet out of the window. It was horrible. We have been walking around numb. There are lots of elderly people here and people are still in shock.”
Both victims suffered burns and were treated by the London Ambulance Service.
Twenty firefighters and four fire engines attended, taking nearly an-hour-and-a-half to get the flames under control.
Police said the fire was being treated as suspicious but no arrests have been made.
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