Bravery Award For Alton Towers' Medics
24 September 2015, 20:03
Three medics who scaled a roller-coaster to save the life of Alton Towers crash victim Leah Washington have won an award for their bravery.
Army doctor Major David Cooper, 34, and aircrew paramedic Tom Waters, 27, were on duty with Midlands Air Ambulance when they were called to the theme park following the incident on the Smiler ride on June 2.
Dr Ben Clark, 40, a volunteer with North Staffordshire BASICS emergency doctors, was also part of the emergency response team, who win a Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Award.
Despite having limited rope training, they ignored health and safety rules to climb the structure to save the lives of the trapped victims.
All three say they did not think twice about risking their own lives - especially when they realised how serious the situation was for the most badly injured casualty, 18-year-old Ms Washington, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
Major Cooper said: "We just did what we needed to do. Lots of people may have waited, but you just can't do that when someone is in the condition that Leah was.''
West Midlands Ambulance Service assistant chief Steve Wheaton, who co-ordinated the rescue, said the men put themselves at huge risk to work at that height.
"It broke every rule in the book, and under normal circumstances I would never have allowed it,'' he said. "But the decision was taken owing to the condition Leah Washington was in.''
Dealing with a partial amputation at a height of 35 to 40ft, they managed to stem her life-threatening bleeding from a severed artery.
They also carried out a life-saving blood transfusion while she was still trapped.
Dr Clark said: "There were a lot of times when I was just shaking my head because I didn't know if it was going to work and if they were going to stay alive.
"When you see people dying in front of your eyes and you know you can't do anything any quicker - it was very difficult.''
The men spent four hours tending to the most seriously injured, and did not come down from the roller-coaster until the victims were freed.
Ms Washington paid tribute to her rescuers, she said: "I can't thank them enough for what they did for me. I wouldn't be here if not.''
She was among four people on the front of the ride when it crashed into an empty carriage. She had to have a leg amputated as a result of the crash.
Ms Washington, her boyfriend Joe Pugh, 18, Vicky Balch, 20, from Leyland, Lancashire, who also had to have a leg amputated, and partner Daniel Thorpe, were all seriously injured.
Emergency services worked carefully for hours, nearly 30ft off the ground, to free them from the front of the carriage.
Another 12 passengers were also taken off successfully.
The three medics will receive their awards at the Pride of Britain ceremony at London's Grosvenor House next week.
The event is hosted by Carol Vorderman, and the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister David Cameron are once again taking part, along with more than 100 of the biggest names from showbiz, politics and sport.