A PAIR of off-duty firemen are among the very last people to receive a Queen’s honour for rescuing a family from a car fire near Chudleigh.

Ed Durante, of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, and Craig Jones, of Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, have received the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for rescuing the occupants of a vehicle that crashed and caught fire on the A38 in June 2021.

The Civilian Gallantry List recognises the bravery of people who’ve put themselves in danger to save, or attempt to save, someone’s life.

The awards are from the final Civilian Gallantry List to be approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

While off duty driving along the A38, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service watch manager and paramedic Ed Durante witnessed a car ahead lose control and collide with the barrier. He stopped to assist, identifying five unconscious passengers and a fire developing within the engine compartment.

Upon opening the driver’s door, flames and smoke had begun to breach the passenger compartment. Ed, who works out of Ivybridge Fire Station, pulled the driver clear of the vehicle onto the road and attempted to rescue the passenger from the front passenger seat; however it was not possible to open the door. Thinking quickly and while the fire was continuing to develop, WM Durante pulled the passenger across the centre console and driver’s seat until she was clear of the vehicle.

During this time fire fighter Craig Jones, also off duty and travelling on the A38, joined the rescue and accessed the rear centre seat to the vehicle pulling a six-year-old child clear through the off side rear door. Once clear of the burning vehicle Craig stayed with the child and rendered urgent first aid.

Having rescued those from the front of the car, WM Durante quickly turned his attention to the rear of the car and with the help of another person, rescued a passenger who was sitting behind the driver’s seat.

With the fire now taking hold of most of the car, WM Durante once again entered the rear seat area and with considerable effort rescued a young man from the far side of the vehicle by releasing the seat belt and pulling him through the vehicle and out of the off side door as this was the only rear door that was able to be opened.

With the assistance of others at the scene, realising the risk posed by the fire and potential of running fuel, WM Durante and FF Jones swiftly moved the casualties away from the vehicle. The car was fully engulfed with flames in a very short space of time and was not extinguished until the first fire appliance arrived, by which time the vehicle was completely destroyed.

Along with off duty medical personnel, WM Durante and FF Jones provided first aid care until the Ambulance Service arrived. A range of injuries were sustained by the casualties, some of which were life changing. A ire service spokesman said: ‘Had WM Durante and FF Jones not made such brave and timely interventions, it is highly likely that there would have been fatalities.’

The awards were approved by the late Queen, on the advice of the George Cross Committee and are the first civilian honours for two years.

Oliver Dowden, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said the latest recipients were “extremely worthy winners” of the Queen’s last awards.

He said: ‘We all hope we’d react with courage in the face of danger. These people have lived through that test, and responded in the most admirable way.’