Workmen rescue disabled from bus in flames

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The Independent Online

Two construction workers helped to pull a group of disabled people from a smoke-filled minibus that caught fire at the weekend as it was driven along a motorway. The men hauled clear the passengers in their wheelchairs before the bus was destroyed by fire within five minutes of developing an electrical fault.

Two construction workers helped to pull a group of disabled people from a smoke-filled minibus that caught fire at the weekend as it was driven along a motorway. The men hauled clear the passengers in their wheelchairs before the bus was destroyed by fire within five minutes of developing an electrical fault.

The driver, Margaret Smith, an occupational therapist, managed to direct the minibus to the side of the M6 at junction 15 near Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, when smoke started to billow from the engine on Saturday. The damaged electrics in the van meant she was unable to use the onboard lift to get the passengers out.

The two workmen, Richard Testa of Castle Donington, Derbyshire, and John Balfe of Aspley, Nottinghamshire, saw the fire, pulled over in their van and helped to rescue the three disabled people.

Chris Bromley, a station officer with Staffordshire ambulance services, said: "When they went on for the third person, they couldn't see each other because the smoke was that thick. They were less than three feet apart. It was a heroic act. If they hadn't done it, there could even have been fatalities."

Another driver pulled over and helped the group who were all suffering from the effects of the smoke.

The passengers, the driver and her assistant, Tina Smith, were taken to North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary for treatment. The two men were also treated with oxygen by the side of the road but were allowed to go home.

The three disabled passengers had been on holiday in Southport and were being taken home to the Castel Froma home in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, when the fire broke out.

Firefighters believe it was caused by a broken fuel line and an electrical fault. The Castel Froma residential home declined to comment.

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