Hero fireman awarded for bravery

AN off-duty fireman who rescued two children injured in a tragic road accident is to be commended for his bravery.Thomas Gilson, a London fireman who lives in Saxmundham, has been awarded a Royal Humane Society Testimonial after he saved the children who had been involved in a crash which killed their mother and a friend on the A12 in December 2003.

AN off-duty fireman who rescued two children injured in a tragic road accident is to be commended for his bravery.

Thomas Gilson, a London fireman who lives in Saxmundham, has been awarded a Royal Humane Society Testimonial after he saved the children who had been involved in a crash which killed their mother and a friend on the A12 in December 2003.

Despite the horrifying scene that greeted him that day near Darsham, Mr Gilson ignored the danger it posed in order to save the children. Petrol fumes around the car meant it could have exploded at any time.

He had no cutting gear or specialist equipment but fought his way into the car to save the youngsters who were hanging upside down. Once they were out he tried to save the children's mother, Luc Moui Hoang, 32 from Barking, who was driving the car but she died at the scene.


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Also killed in the car was Chi Kwong Hon, 49, a chef from Ipswich.

However the 46-year-old claims he was just doing what any off-duty fireman would have done.

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He said: "You just do what you can to help out and that's it.

"You cut off and go back to what you're trained to do. Without any equipment it is hard to do, nothing could be done apart from getting the children out until the brigade arrived."

Mr Gilson was helped at the scene by other people, who wrapped the first child in blankets while he returned to the car to get the other one out.

He said: "People did want to help and it was a help once they knew what to do.

"It was frustrating to not have any equipment or tools to use so you just do what you can until proper help arrives."

The accident happened as the group travelled along the A12 at Darsham on December 28. Their Honda CRV was involved in a collision with a lorry.

Mr Gilson, who is a Kensington and Chelsea fireman, had been enjoying a day trip out with his wife and two children and was returning home when they came across the crash scene.

It is because of Mr Gilson's bravery that the Humane Society has bestowed one of it's highest awards to him.

The Testimonial on Vellum will be signed by the society's president, Princess Alexandra and these awards are only given to people who put themselves in considerable danger to rescue someone else.

Mr Gilson was nominated for the award by his station commander after he heard about his bravery.

He said: "I'm pleased to be given it, it will be something to be proud of when I'm finished and it will be something to look back on"

David Pennefather, secretary of the society, said: "Mr Gilson is a credit to the fire service who thoroughly deserves this award."

No date has yet been set for the presentation of the award.

At an inquest in May last year, Lowestoft coroner George Leguen de Lacroix recorded verdicts of accidental death on both Mrs Hoang, of Fox Meadows, Barking and Mr Hon, of Bramford Lane, Ipswich.

The Royal Humane Society was founded in 1774 by two doctors, William Hawes and Thomas Cogan. Their original aim was to save people from drowning through resuscitation, which at that time was a controversial new medical technique.

The Testimonal on Vellum is one of six awards given to the society. It has kept the historical name of vellum, which refers to the kind of paper it would originally have been printed on. There is another award called the Testimonial on Parchment.

Each certificate is hand written by a calligrapher and gives a summary of the act of bravery that led to the award.

The certificates are signed by HRH Princess Alexandra, the president of the society.

Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, was given an award by the society in 1882 for attempting to save a man from the River Thames. The man is believed to have jumped in deliberately and Stoker was unable to save him.

WEBLINK: www.royalhumane.org

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