'Hero' honoured for rescue admits faking story

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The Independent Online

A man feted as a hero for saving the lives of a pilot and passenger in a burning plane has admitted that he stole the story from the real, more modest, rescuer.

Nigel Gallimore, from Bournemouth, was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery last May, for dragging David Bougourd and pilot Robert Le Page away from the crashed light-aircraft as it went up in flames in August 2004.

But yesterday he admitted to an inquest: "In the heat of the moment I probably said things that didn't happen."

His tale of bravery belonged to Michael Winstanley, who arrived at the scene of the plane crash before 41-year-old Mr Gallimore. He was driving his van and saw both men dazed after escaping the blaze. He dragged them both to safety, sheltering them as the plane exploded behind his van. A third man, Andrew Anderson, a 41-year-old financial assistant, was killed.

Witnesses said the wreckage was burning too fiercely for anyone to get close enough to rescue Mr Anderson.

The men had flown from their homes in Guernsey to Bournemouth on their way to a vintage airshow at Henstridge in Somerset. The Socata TB-10 single-engine aircraft suffered loss of power as it left Bournemouth airport and was forced to land at the entrance to the busy Alice in Wonderland theme park.

But while Mr Winstanley remained anonymous, Mr Gallimore went on to become a local celebrity after receiving the commendation on the back of the publicity. He picked up a radio station's Most Heroic Act of the year award and was invited to join a sailing crew called Courage during a race at Cowes Week last year. Yesterday, Mr Gallimore admitted to Bournemouth coroner Mr Sheriff Payne at the inquest into Mr Anderson's death that he had embellished the tale. He said: "A lot of things happened and a lot was being asked. In the heat of the moment I probably said things that didn't happen."

Mr Payne asked: "Did the earlier statement indicate that you had helped to get both the men out of the aircraft?"

Mr Gallimore replied: "That is not true."

Mr Gallimore's father-in-law put forward his name to the Department of Transport for a gallantry award and he was given the Queen's Commendation for Bravery on 24 May 24 2005, based upon his statement to the Air Accident Investigation Board.

Mr Winstanley, 52, told the court: "I saw someone climbing out of the window from the left-hand side door. I ran over to this person who was struggling to his feet and I led him to safety and laid him down on the road.

"I then looked up and back towards the aircraft and saw someone else emerging from it via the same window and fall to the ground. I also assisted him to his feet and escorted him to my van."

They were treated for serious burns in Salisbury Hospital.

The window fitter, who spent 13 and a half years in the Royal Green Jackets and was a corporal serving in Northern Ireland, Germany and Cyprus, said outside court: "He [Mr Gallimore] has got to be sick. I'm not a hero. I just had to do it. For him to turn around and claim the Queen's Award for Bravery which I don't deserve, he doesn't deserve it. If anyone, the pilot deserves it. If that plane had come down in the Alice in Wonderland theme park, there would have been a lot more fatalities."

The jury of six men and five women took one hour to reach a verdict that Mr Anderson died as a result of an accident.