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    Firefighters praised for rescuing man trapped beneath a tree

    Four Exmouth firefighters have received Chief Fire Officer’s Commendations for their part in the rescue of a man trapped beneath a tree.

    Firefighters Scott Eley, Ian Johnston, Peter Watson and Pete Trapnell were called to Otterton on November 16 last year where a man had fallen from a tree and a ladder was keeping the tree off him, trapping him under the tree and on a bank.

    The Exmouth ambulance crews were on the scene attending to the man. He was pinned under a 7m section of an ash tree weighing approximately three tonnes.

    The man had been using a ladder up the bank beside the tree to trim the branches along the trunk after it came down in gales the week before. When cutting through one large branch the tree rolled over, destabilising the man on his ladder and rolled over the top of him.

    The casualty ended up pinned by his chest to the side of the steep bank. The ladder had been pushed under the tree supporting much of the weight and giving the casualty some respite from the weight of the tree. The casualty’s legs were through the rounds and free from entrapment.

    Although the tree looked relatively stable there was still a danger of it sliding down the bank, so White Watch and retained crews from Exmouth set about securing it to other substantial trees using winches.

    The decision was made to support the lower end of the tree with a ladder and call the Urban Search and Rescue team to use their lifting equipment to support the tree while the man was extricated.

    Meanwhile, the crews set about clearing undergrowth and branches from the immediate area to assist with access. The ambulance HART team arrived and set up their equipment.

    Crews set up another winch and ground anchors to assist with securing the top section of the tree.

    A tele-handler was eventually used to lift and stabilise the tree and the man was carefully slid from under the tree up the bank onto a stretcher and secured. He was taken to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital with chest and shoulder injuries.

    Crews made the tree safe.

    The awards ceremony at Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service headquarters in Exeter also saw new medals presented to the first crews to respond to the fatal M5 crash in November 2011. Firefighters and support staff who were involved in the major flooding incidents on the Somerset Levels and at Dawlish were also awarded Chief Fire Officer’s Letters of Commendation.

    Long service and good conduct medals were awarded to firefighters and support staff who had completed at least 20 years’ service with good conduct, among them: Firefighter David Roberts, from Exeter; crew manager Jason Newcombe, from Budleigh Salterton; watch manager John Donovan, of Okehampton; and temporary group manager Andrew Rowse and watch manager Scott Wilson at service headquarters.


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