A PENSIONER says he owes his life to his neighbours after they raised the alarm when he passed out and his home filled with deadly smoke.
Maurice Russell, 74, praised the quick-thinking actions of his next-door neighbours and the emergency services who pulled him out.
Mr Russell was in his terraced home, in Greatham High Street, on Christmas Day when he suddenly passed out.
He had just put his turkey on the cooker and switched it on. Luckily, the family next door saw smoke coming from the house and called for help.
Neighbour David Watson broke a kitchen window to help release the thick smoke after struggling to see where Mr Russell was.
Mr Russell, a retired policeman, said: “I definitely think he saved my life. I’m eternally grateful to him.
“It could have been catastrophic. I’ve got great neighbours.”
Mr Watson also helped police, who had to kick the front door in, to drag Mr Russell out of the house and to safety.
The dad of two was given oxygen by paramedics in the street before being taken to the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton by ambulance for tests.
There he learned he has an irregular heart beat which is thought to be responsible for why he fainted.
Mr Russell, who was back at home yesterday, believes he had laid unconscious for up to 90 minutes after passing out by the sofa while his home filled with smoke.
He came round when he heard his neighbour breaking the back window at about 6pm.
“I’m extremely lucky,” he added. “The danger was if the cooker caught fire it could have set next door on either side on fire as well.
“I’m alright and they are alright, that’s the main thing.
“I would like to thank all the emergency services including North Tees. They have all been absolutely superb.
“So many people have been ringing me up and calling round to see how I am, it’s been quite emotional.”
Three fire crews from Hartlepool attended the incident and ventilated Mr Russel’s house of smoke.
They also fitted two new smoke alarms as a precaution.