A school teacher was reunited for the first time with two men who saved his life by pulling him from his car moments before it burst into flames.
Mark Kerr, 44, a deputy headteacher, almost died when he passed out at the wheel driving at 70mph and veered off the A19 at Dalton Piercy near Hartlepool in May.
Matt Heap, 28, and Matthew Johnson, 24, who rescued Mark just seconds before his Vaxhall Vectra was engulfed by fire, have been presented with commendations for their bravery.
They were came face to face with Mark who suffered a catalogue of injuries including to his head, chest and pelvis.
Mark remembers nothing about the accident which happened as he was driving to work at Willowfields Primary School in Sunderland from his home in Billingham.
He said: “The last thing I remember is driving along the A19, the next thing was waking up in the trauma unit in James Cook hospital.”
there is no doubt their quick-thinking actions saved my life
Mark suffered multiple fractures to his head where he has been left with a large scar, and also to his pelvis, collar bone and sternum.
He spent two and a half weeks in hospital before being allowed home to continue his rehabilitation.
Mark hailed the support from colleagues at school and his previous school in Thornaby throughout his recovery.
“There’s been loads of support from school,” he said. “One of the things that’s quite humbling and got me through a lot of it was support from people including those I had lost contact with for many years.”
Mark thanked his rescuers as they picked up their awards at Cleveland Fire Brigade headquarters in Hartlepool – exactly 10 weeks since his accident – which he attended with wife Francesca and daughter Ellora.
He added: “I can’t put into words what it means to me and my family. The word hero is often diminished by being branded about too much, but in this case it is absolutely true.
“I know the two guys are very humble about their actions and just say they did what anyone else would have done. But there is no doubt their quick-thinking actions saved my life.”
Matt Heap, a former young firefighter, from Redcar, was just behind Mr Kerr in the outside lane of the A19 northbound when he saw the car veer off the road. He stopped immediately while his wife, Abby dialed 999.
Matthew Johnson, also from Redcar, had been driving 200 metres in front of Mr Kerr and saw the accident in his rear view mirror before dashing to help.
Mr Heap, a process operator with Sabic UK Petrochemicals UK, said: “When I got there with Matthew, the bonnet was smoking. He forced open the driver’s door and got his seat belt off and we dragged him out across the field well away from the car.
“Moments later the whole car was engulfed in flames.” He used his jumper to stem the bleeding from Mark’s injuries adding: “I just did what anybody would do. I am sure the training I received when I was a young firefighter certainly helped.”
Matthew, a worker with field service specialists Team Furmanite added: “There wasn’t that much time to think so we just did what we had to do. I have been to see Mark and his family and I know they are very grateful. I am very humbled to receive this award.
“Anybody else would have done the same.”
Presenting the commendations, Chief Fire Officer Ian Hayton said: “There is absolutely no doubt that Mr Kerr would not be here today without the utmost bravery and selfless action of these two men who, with total disregard to any danger to themselves, rushed to the scene and dragged him clear just seconds before the car was engulfed in flames.”