Hero firefighters who risked their lives to save a man dangling upside down from 400,000-volt power lines have been decorated for their bravery.
Members of a specially-trained rope rescue team, who scaled a pylon to reach the semi-naked man and battled for four hours to bring him down safely, have received commendations from Lancashire’s chief fire officer.
Firefighters Darren Kyle, Rob Ridgeway, Simon Eardley and Kirt Livesey were praised for their heroism 60ft above the ground near Liverpool Road, Penwortham, last August.
Two other officers who directed the delicate operation from the ground – rope rescue supervisor Pete Jones and the officer in charge, station manager Tom Cookson – have also been honoured at the same ceremony.
“We are all very proud of them,” said station manager Phil Whittaker from Chorley where the rope rescue team is based.
“I was at the scene and it was an exceptional rescue. They took a big risk and showed great courage to rescue this man.”
The drama began at around 3pm on August 7 when emergency services were called to the scene after reports an injured man was dangling precariously from the lines.
Rescuers later revealed how the casualty, believed to be in his 30s, had been doubly lucky to survive the incident.
The power on one side of the pylon had been turned off only minutes earlier for repair work to the system.
The hem of his jeans snagged on the metal structure as he fell and left him suspended by one leg.
“Had he climbed up the other side of the pylon he would have been frazzled,” said a fire brigade spokesman. “But luckily for him some work was being carried out nearby and the lines on that side had been isolated. But then, as he lost his balance, one leg of his jeans caught on a bit of the pylon, leaving him dangling by a strip of denim above the ground.”
Crews from Penwortham, Fulwood, St Annes and Hyndburn also attended, as did the county’s air support drone unit to relay information about the casualty down to paramedics on the ground during his four-hour ordeal.A heavy recovery vehicle from crane company Millers was also drafted in and
firefighters used an aerial ladder platform to bring the man safely down to earth once he had been freed.
He was airlifted to the Royal Preston Hospital by helicopter where he was treated for leg and other injuries.
A citation, read out at the commendation ceremony, said: “The man was alive which, considering the 400,000 volts transmitted in the cables the pylon carried, was unexpected.
“The first action was to request the National Grid to isolate the power. In fact it subsequently emerged that the only reason the man had not been electrocuted was that the power in the cables he was in contact with had already been shut down for maintenance. Though not electrocuted when he had climbed up there he had lost his footing and only the hem of his jeans getting hooked up in the structure had stopped him from falling, but with no certainty the fabric preventing his fall would not tear loose.”
The citation added that the firefighters who climbed up the pylon, secured him with strops, “demonstrated exceptional skill and courage in their determination to rescue him.” They had to administer Entonox gas to help ease his pain.
Their response had been a “crucial element of a phenomenal team contribution.”
The officer in charge, station manager Tom Cookson, 48, from Euxton station, was also commended for the role he played in an “unusual, demanding and complex incident.”
He had, it said, “bravely utilised his resources outside of normal procedures using his discretion to save a life so precariously in the balance.”
Station manager Cookson told the Post: “I have been in the service for 30 years and its one of the most complex rescues we have ever had to carry out.
“There was a rush to get people up the tower to secure him from falling. He was literally hanging from the turn-up on his jeans. It was the only thing holding him in position.
“After securing him in position we had to find a rescue plan. We had to go above the pylon and come down on ropes.
“It’s the biggest rope rescue of all time since we started in Lancashire. I am not aware of anything bigger than this.
“I was at the bottom which was a lot easier than the guys up the tower. The guys that climbed the tower are the ones that really deserve this.”