HERO OF THE NIGHT
By EMMA CORNFORD
A 23-YEAR-OLD Grafton man was fighting for his life at the Royal Brisbane Hospital yesterday afternoon with burns to 55 per cent of his body after his car smashed into a tree on the Summerland Way at Grafton on Wednesday night.
Police said the man was travelling south towards Grafton when his car left the road and hit a camphor laurel, bursting into flames on impact.
But the quick actions of Grafton truck driver Peter Barnier may have saved the young man's life.
As soon as his wife Leone told him about the crash, Mr Barnier ran outside and saw the car on fire.
He grabbed his two fire extinguishers and bolted out to the car.
"I was out there in about 70 seconds but it was about 70 seconds too late I think," he said from his Summerland Way home yesterday.
"I just lugged off the extinguisher and attacked the flames at the front then worked my way around to the window and stuck it in there to do what I could."
Running on adrenaline, Mr Barnier said he was not frightened during the ordeal and rejected the suggestion he was a hero.
"The first thing in my mind when I saw it was to put out the flames. It's just common sense and doing what you have to do," he said.
"I tried to open the doors and encourage him to get out of the car himself, but I didn't want to pull him out myself because I didn't know how he was injured or anything like that. He seemed to be moving around pretty well but I just didn't really know."
Mr Barnier, who does a lot of welding and grinding, has had the extinguishers sitting in his shed for around eight years, but has never had to use them.
An ambulance spokesman who attended the scene had no doubt Mr Barnier's actions saved the man from certain death.
"At the scene the Grafton Fire Brigade and bystanders helped to gain acces into the vehicle ... but it was an extremely difficult extraction," he said.
"Ambulance officers were working on the man while the car was still smouldering."
He said aside from burns, the man had a possible head injury and facial injuries.
A police spokesman said two witnesses to the accident were helping police with their investigations.
"The vehicle lost control on a right-hand bend for some reason and left the roadway, where it collided with a tree," he said.
"Blood was taken at the hospital so we'll have that in due course, but we're still in the very early stages of investigations at this point."