Bravery and quick thinking saved man's life after M11 collision

Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington with Ashley Stowell and the Commendation

Ashley Stowell has been commended by Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington for bravery and life-saving action on the M11 - Credit: Essex Police

A man's bravery, quick thinking and decisive actions at the scene of an M11 collision which triggered a vehicle fire saved a stranger's life.

Ashley Stowell has been commended by Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington for keeping an injured man alive until emergency services arrived. A Commendation is one of the highest honours Mr Harrington can bestow.

Mr Stowell was returning home after a 12-hour shift at Peterborough Urgent Treatment Centre when he was diverted off the A1 and on to the M11 on February 13, 2019.

He was first at the scene of the collision, involving a van trapped between two lorries, with the driver stuck inside. Fuel was leaking from the vehicle, then the van caught fire.

Although he is an advanced paramedic practitioner, Mr Stowell only had his personal medical kit and a small fire extinguisher with him.


You may also want to watch:


With disregard for his own personal safety, he tackled the fire and provided essential emergency first aid to the van driver, who had life-threatening injuries.

Because there was a separate serious collision on the M11, emergency services were unable to reach the scene for approximately 40 minutes.

Most Read

During this time, Mr Stowell maintained the injured driver’s airway and his blood pressure. When fire and ambulance crews were able to attend, the man was freed and taken to hospital. He survived the collision.

Mr Stowell said: “I have been on first on scene with the Ambulance Service many times but there is normally support and you have your ambulance with all the equipment.

“The van was trapped between two lorries, so of course there was fuel everywhere. My concern was not only for the casualty inside the van but also the vehicles which were still trying to squeeze past in the outside lane.

“It was about 9.30pm, it was dark, there was fuel on the ground. I got to the man and saw he was trapped and barely breathing and had assessed there was no-one else inside, then the van sparked and caught fire.

“When I put the fire out, I was able to concentrate on him, knowing he was the only casualty. I tried to get oxygen and fluids into him to stabilise him.

“Eventually, fire crews from Stansted arrived, followed by Essex roads policing officers and the ambulance service.

"When the fire officer came over and put his arm round my shoulder and said ‘We’re here, mate’, that was the nicest feeling I’ve had in 35 years of working closely with the emergency services. That 40 minutes felt like an eternity.

“It was lovely to be recognised, a lovely gesture. I feel really proud.”

Mr Harrington of Essex Police said: “It was exceptional for Mr Stowell not only to provide the man with vital medical attention but also to put out a fire which could have engulfed the vehicles involved in the collision."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter