1 May 2009
When a van driver lost consciousness then veered at speed off a road and down a huge embankment, there was one piece of good news – a Red Cross first aider was in the car behind him.
Volunteer Dennis Ducro was heading for a holiday at Brecon in Wales when the vehicle ahead of him suddenly careered off the dual carriageway and crashed 30 feet down a grassy verge.
Dennis (42), from Southsea in Hampshire, recalled: “I grabbed my phone, called for the emergency services then went straight down the hill. I just kept wondering: what am I going to find? The van had been travelling at quite a speed and I wasn’t sure how many people were in the vehicle, how many casualties I was going to find or even if they’d had their seatbelts on.”
trained and prepared
Luckily, Dennis’ weekly first aid group meeting in Portsmouth had covered road traffic collisions just days earlier, so he couldn’t have been better prepared.
He said: “The front of the van was smoking and I was worried it would catch alight. After checking it out, there were no signs of danger so I approached and saw a man – about 60 years old – sat in the vehicle with blood all over his face.
“I opened the van door and he said to me: ‘All right fella?’ That’s what he said! He was in quite a bit of shock so I started talking to him and told him not to move until I’d checked him out.”
Calm and effective
The volunteer added: “I asked the man if he was hurt, checked that his pupils weren’t dilating and made sure he was able to hold a conversation. He had quite a deep cut to the face but, luckily, also had some kitchen towel in the van so I was able to stem the bleeding.
“About five minutes later the police and paramedics arrived, thanked me for my help and took over from there. I was certainly glad I’d known how to deal with the situation. The Red Cross training meant I didn’t panic.”
As for the cause of the accident – the van had seemed to just suddenly veer off the road for no reason – the mystery was finally solved, and answer came as a surprise. Dennis said: “It turns out the guy had simply sneezed hard and lost consciousness for a few seconds, then the next thing he could remember was coming round in the van.”
Find out about first aid training
Become a first aid volunteer
History of the Red Cross