“They think it’s all over”

30 July 2010

The start of the most horrific and challenging 48 hours of the trip began in Lithuania on Thursday morning at 6.30am. We met Taddas and Edmundo our fixers and followed them north and into Latvia as we headed to the Russian border. Taddas had kindly arranged a spot of swimming on the way. Well lake swimming at a stunning lake side house owned by his friend who actually owned the lake itself which was about the size of an English county. We had planned the swim so you can all stop panicking that we didn’t have shorts on!

Lithuania is really a stunningly beautiful country. As we entered Latvia we headed left for the Russian border. It was about now that lady luck began to tease. Firstly the rear locker had buckled and come out of it’s runners. Unable to open it or fix it, the brains of B.J.Battye and the infamous heavy hand approach of C.J.Moore combined, cutting wires, breaking off metal like men and forced it back resulting in a complete fix! Very pleased with our “we fix things” mentality.

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Now I have to set the scene. As we approached the border the sky was dark with lightning in the sky above mother Russia. We stopped a few hundred yards back in a queue of cars with rain coming down. The Latvian/Russian border was there in front of us at 1700 hrs.

This is where, and you will have to excuse the pun, the wheels came off. As we edged our way forward in the queue the rain came down. Steve and the fixers had gone to the border and returned with the bad news that we would be up to 24hrs late leaving Latvia due to the sheer volume of vehicles ahead of us. No bribe or begging could get us through and we were all disheartened at the prospect of sleeping in a car park.

It was at this moment that the sun began to shine. As we pondered what to do for the next 24 hours the silence was broken by the absolutely horrific noise of a 40 tonne articulated lorry crashing into the queue behind us without braking. Cars were thrown 70 metres through the air whilst others were simply crushed by the speed of the impact. Where we had been sat 15mins earlier now resembled a film set from a Hollywood disaster film.

The lorry ploughed on veering off the road, down a bank and crashing into a pylon. We naturally ran towards the scene of carnage. Steve shouting for the de-fib, medical kit and extinguishers. The sound of metal being crushed was replaced by the cracking of the electricity and sparks from the pylon and then the screams of people. It was like a bomb and had gone off. Steve was met by a man with clothes ripped off and covered in blood from head to foot. Fires were starting in the cars which we put out.

With a huge language barrier people were looking at us thinking fire fighters with a truck. The guys were all thinking about their Prometheus medical training realising the dreadful day when these skills would be required had arrived. My first thoughts were what did we need. In England this scene would need a dozen fire engines, a dozen ambulances, a helicopter plus police. We had nothing but our training and equipment given by Dr Malcolm Russell and his Prometheus team.

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It’s hard to say what happened next and in no way is it ramped up to sound heroic. We just did what I think anyone would have done. Steve had organised a triage system for the injured. George and Ben were administering first aid including stemming bleeding and fitting a neck brace. Ross and I went down the bank to the two vehicles that had been flown through the air and were crushed. Putting out small fires I found a young boy alive in one of the crushed cars. With a lot of luck I managed to free him from the buckled seat and pull him out of the car before carrying him up the bank and passing him to Steve. It’s now I have to say it dawned on me that we must be dealing with multiple fatalities.

It really can’t be under estimated how much the medical training from one of our main sponsors, Prometheus, was now worth. I looked around and saw all of the crew performing professionally and heroically. Bit by bit the training came back. Steve was disconnecting the car batteries on the accessible ones to reduce risk of fire, we conducted a search of the trees and bushes to look for bodies that may have been thrown clear of the cars and amazingly we all kept calm. The truck itself had to be left as the pylon had brought down the wires and it was unsafe to approach despite the driver being still inside.

Over 6 cars had been destroyed, with others damaged yet we did not find a body. It was a truly a miracle. I reckon 20 people were in these vehicles but the sun coming out caused most of them to get out just minutes before the accident. We can’t honestly tell you how no one died. To find and free people alive was unbelievable. The emergency services arrived. Well a 1940’s fire engine with no equipment except a ladder and water and a couple of ambulances which were devoid of even the most basic equipment we have in this country. As for the police well “he” arrived about an hour later and arrested the truck driver who was naked and could not stand due to being so drunk.

The mental impact of the accident hit home as we set up camp in our car park for the night. I could see the complete shock and fear on all of our faces. I personally was so proud of Steve, Ross, George and Ben. We all pulled together as a team in a moment of crisis and performed professionally. The photos below were only taken after we established no one had been killed. And to Dr Malcolm Russell and the Prometheus team in Hereford, a huge thank you. Your time, training, equipment and ability was vital to us.

Morale was shot. 5 guys in a truck were simply in shock. Hardly any words were spoken. But in the best of British spirit, out came the cricket set and humour namely Steve’s now infamous war rallying call of “Deeeeeeee-Fiiiibbbbbbbbbbbbbb” as he ran, George disappearing in the foliage as we searched for bodies, and Steve’s view of me carrying the boy up to him i.e baby from burning house in Kurt Russell’s Backdraft with the “that’s my brother god damn it” line.

We were lucky.  All of the injured were lucky. But now at about 2000 hrs on Thursday any luck we had truly left us!  So today was horrific.  But it now was to get worse……………..


17 Responses to ““They think it’s all over””

  1. Bloody hell lads…..I am humbled by your quick thinking, and ability to react positivily to the chaos you found yourself in. Speechless…….!

  2. As an ex London Fireman, do not belittle the heroism of you all.
    There are many others who would have stood to oneside at the scene of such carnage. But with your foresight of getting professional training before leaving, hoping you were never going to have to use it,you were fully equipped to deal with such an emergency when it happened.There are many people alive today because of your courage and professionalism.
    Besides the people you helped, we and i am sure everyone folllowing you would like to say thank you for the way you acted on that day.
    You, not only for what you are doing for the charities, but for your actions are bloody heros.
    P.S.Bet your glad your not going round the world in that Russian one!

  3. bloody hell u lot … u r all truly amazing ! I was speechless after reading that! Have been following closely. Will be catching up with you all in brisbane as i am an old school friend of Amys who now lives in Nth Queensland, Aust. Will be flying to Brisbane to meet you all. Hope martha the monkey (i named her) isnt too traumatised !

    First round is on me in Brisbane guys!
    Take care :0)

  4. absolutely amazing, am proud to say i know you guys.

  5. Boys, you are all amazing. HUGE. Dr malcom and co did such a good job. It takes super special and brave people to step up when it counts. Stay safe! Our nerves at FTFE HQ aren’t going to be able to take much more of this! Love K

  6. Absolutely bloody amazing. Well done to you all. Sounds like you averted something that could have been much worse if you weren’t there. Brings home the phrase “train hard, fight easy”! Superb job.

  7. I was covered in goose bumps reading this. SO proud of you guys. I can’t imagine how you all must have been feeling afterwards, incredible. Take care

  8. Thank goodness for the sun coming out and for the fact that you were all so efficient and organised in your response! So impressed. So relieved that the story had a happy ending with no fatalities. Here’s to all of the dramas that you encounter having a fairytale ending! The rest of the Panoramic Journeys team are looking forward to welcoming into Mongolia. Best wishes Karina

  9. Thank god you guys were there, must have been pretty horrific but sound like you did an amazing job – I’m sure it will stay with you all for a long time. Very proud to know you all. Take care of each other xxx

  10. Well done guys an epic task to deal with, told you the training would come in handy. Keep up the good work and lets hope things are a bit more quiet on the medical front.

    keep up the good work


  11. OMG, reading that gave me goose bumps. I only know some of you but you all sound such amazing & brave men. Well done to all of you. I hope you’re extremely proud of yourselves.

    Look after each other as you move on to your next adventure.


  12. I’ve been following on Facebook but this is the first time I’ve properly checked out the website – couldn’t believe what I just found & read. Truly miraculous boys, you should all be immensely proud. John Rambo, John McClane, Casey Ryback, Han Solo and Indiana Jones don’t hold a match to you guys.

  13. I cant believe you guys have just been through this? Literally sitting at my desk in near tears. Incredible effort boys – hugely heroic and thank God for your training with Prometheus!!! You truly are an inspirations. Well done xx

  14. Well done guys! The people involved were very lucky and noone died! Keep up the good work!

    Simon, Rhayader

  15. Marie Robinson August 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    What amazing team work.

  16. Hi Guys. Just back from leave and heard about your epic incident – sounds like your did a great job in very difficult circumstances. I’m really glad that the training helped you and as amazed as you that there weren’t any fatalities. As I said on the course, it’s about staying cool and doing the basic things properly that makes a difference. How easy would it have been for you to go rushing in without thinking about safety, for example, and ending up with casualties of your own as well?

    Keep up the good work, be proud of what you did, and let us know what kit you used – we’ll get a re-supply organised for you immediately.

    Best wishes
    Malcolm and the Prometheus team.


  1. […] video diary on You Tube or simply view the pictures on Facebook, nine months of stories such as coming to the rescue after a terrifying traffic accident on the Lithuanian border, which if you only read one article, […]