An ex-army bomb disposal solider worked alongside a retail manager to pull people from a blaze after light aircraft crashed onto a dual carriageway close to a private airstrip in south Wales.
Pictures show the scarce remains of the light aircraft and the lines of traffic halted on the road as stunned spectators are dwarfed by the huge, dark plumes after the plane miraculously managed to avoid hitting any cars.
Ex bomb sergeant Joel Snarr, 35, was one of the first to react to the crash, helping to pull the passengers from the burning wreckage that a witness described as ‘a pile of melted metal’.
Ex bomb sergeant Joel Snarr, 35, was one of the first to react to the crash, pulling people from the wreckage alongside another man. The flaming plane is shown in the middle of the A40
Snarr, who was medically discharged with PTSD this year, was in the car with his wife when the aircraft came down 150m in front of them.
Without a second thought, he parked 80 metres away and bolted towards the scene where he found another man trying to kick through the window of the plane.
When he reached the wreckage he saw 46-year-old retail manager Daniel Nicholson already there kicking at the craft’s front window.
He was kicking the front window in vain before noticing a crack on the back window, and aiming his boot at that, thinking it could be easier to smash through.
Mr Snarr told the BBC: ‘There was someone from the other side of the dual carriageway, trying to kick the window through.
‘I grabbed the lady by the belt and pulled her out. The pilot then put out his hands and I heaved him out.’
Mr Nicholson was returning from picking his son up from a friend’s when the plane plummeted down directly in front of him, just after 11am this morning.
He said: ‘The plane came from nowhere, and if it had been two seconds later it would have hit us.
Police said that three occupants of the plane were treated at the scene for non-life threatening injuries
‘The plane literally burst into flames in front of me and it had landed upside down.
‘I screeched to a halt, and didn’t hesitate – I could see there were people in there.’
The 46-year-old added that he could see a girl and ‘her brother’ in the back of the plane that had flames billowing from one side.
He said: ‘As there was no fire my side, I knew I could get access. She was terrified, screaming because she could see the fire.’
The father added that the girl began kicking the window from the inside as he did so from the outside, working together until he helped free the two younger occupants who were ’19 or 20′.
Mr Snarr, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq according to The Sun, said there was a pilot in his forties along with the young man and woman. The woman had suffered a head injury and all three were ‘in total shock.’
The plane in flames on the A40 with thick, black smoke billowing out of the wreckage
Mr Nicholson said he saw Mr Snarr come from the other side of the barrier and they worked together to free the pilot from the now ‘completely engulfed’ wreck.
He added that he thought the pilot might have been the two passengers’ father.
‘Joel pulled him out, but by then the plane was completely engulfed. I ran to my son who was waiting in the car, reversed as the flames were increasing.
‘It only took the fire engines 10-15 minutes to get there, but it was all so blurred. It happened so quickly but I’m glad we got them out.’
Mr Snarr said he also felt the increasing heat: ‘We got them away from the plane, which was getting hotter and hotter.’
He told The Sun that his only thought as he sprinted towards the ‘inferno’ was ‘is anyone going to be alive?’
Mr Snarr also said by the time he guided the people away from the blaze the plane was completely consumed by fire. Pictures from the aftermath show the remnants, melted and strewn across the road.
He told the BBC that the parachute and extinguishers then ‘popped off’ due to being pressurised, and the rest of fuel in the aircraft caught fire.
‘It was an incredibly intense fire,’ he added.
Police said that three occupants of the plane were treated at the scene for non-life threatening injuries, after a witness reported seeing a man pulling them out of the burning wreckage. Two were taken to a local hospital.
Pictures show lines of traffic halted on the road as stunned spectators are dwarfed by the huge, dark plumes
The aircraft, believed to be headed to or from Abergavenny Airfield, is thought to have clipped over head rail lines, snapping them and sending them flying into the side of the train.
It also snapped an electricity pole as it plummeted to the ground, flipping on its back in the middle of the road, both men said.
Passengers of the train reported smelling burning and some reports suggest the highly charged wires were strewn across the tracks.
BBC journalist Rhodri Tomos, who was on board, said earlier today: ‘The guard said that a light aircraft has crashed into some power cables and the cables have hit the train.
The melted aftermath of the crash as emergency services tend to the obliterated wreckage
It is the third incident of this nature to happen in the area in the last three years. The scene today is pictured
‘We could smell some burning and we were at a stop for about 15 minutes.’
The A40 between Abergavenny – a market town and community in Monmouthshire – and nearby Raglan was closed following the incident, and police told people to avoid the area.
It is the third incident of this nature to happen in the area in the last three years with two people – Martin Bishop, 61, and 68-year-old Roderick Weaver, of Cardiff – dying in a light aircraft crash on the outskirts of nearby Raglan in June last year.
In June 2016 there was another light aircraft crash, but all three people escaped without injury after their Piper PA-28 Cherokee Warrior hit trees soon after leaving Abergavenny Airfield with a student pilot, instructor and passenger on board.
Martin Barnfield, who was driving on the road, said the heat from the burning craft was ‘immense’.
‘It looked like it was taking off but wasn’t able to. It flipped over onto the westbound carriageway,’ he added.
Witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion this morning, and seeing thick smoke in the area at around 11 am, then police were called and arrived alongside fellow emergency services and Western Power.
People at the scene reported that the people evacuated were alive and had ‘serious burns’.
Louise Hodges wrote on Facebook: ‘We were watching a glider flying over, must have been just before this happened.
Witnesses reported hearing a loud explosion and seeing thick smoke in the area this morning
‘The front of the plane looked black and at an odd angle. We wondered if there was something wrong.’
Another woman, Kelly Hale, said on Facebook that she saw a man pulling people out of the wreckage of the aircraft, branding him ‘a hero’.
‘They’re safe and the guy is a hero. But the plane is still burning and the road is closed,’ she said.
Another woman wrote that ‘everyone survived, but serious burns. Missed every car on the road.’
One person who lives across the valley from the scene tweeted a picture of the smoky skyline and said that there is a private landing strip nearby
One person who lives across the valley from the scene tweeted a picture of the smoky skyline and said that there is a private landing strip nearby.
Abergavenny Airfield is situated near the road. Local man Martin Bishop, 61, was one of two people killed there in the last aircraft crash in the area.
He, and fellow victim Roderick Weaver, were avid flyers who ‘died doing what they loved’, according to tributes.
Trains have also been affected as a result of the crash today, with National Rail saying that services between Hereford and Newport will be delayed until around 7pm. Buses have also been rerouted.
All lines are currently blocked between Abergavenny and Pontypool & New Inn ‘due to an obstruction on the track’, National Rail said.
Gwent Police didn’t confirm details of the reported crash but tweeted to say there was a ‘police incident’ on the same road.