A Frodsham dad who risked his life to save a young couple from a burning glamping pod insists he’s ‘no hero’.
But fire crews say that without the quick-thinking actions of David Tonks, 56, who ran into the smoke-filled pod at Lady Heyes Caravan and Camping Site to rescue 20-year-old Lydia Wadsworth and her boyfriend Rob McDonnell, the pair would have died ‘within minutes’.
A modest Mr Tonks, whose home on Kingsley Road overlooks the glamping pods, told The Chronicle: "You just hope someone will do the same for your kids."
He was inside his home at around 11.30pm on Saturday when he heard his 16-year-old daughter Millie and her boyfriend Perry’s raised voices in the garden.
“I thought they were having an argument at first but then I heard Millie screaming for my help and I knew instantly something was wrong and the dog was going crazy,” Mr Tonks recalled.
“I went out and Millie was outside the pods screaming that people were trapped in Number 7. I could see thick black smoke and then I noticed Lydia with her head out of the window, just covered in black soot.
"She was shouting 'We’re dying in here’."
He added: “I tried the front door but it wouldn’t open. I thought to myself ‘I can make a difference here’ and I don’t know how I came to think of it but I suddenly remembered I had a multi purpose torch in the car that had a spike on it so I ran to get it and smashed the patio doors.
“It was horrendous in there for Lydia - there were no flames, just thick black smoke and some glowing embers on the floor. I was shouting at her to get out but she kept saying she couldn’t. But I kept telling her ‘you can, I’ve smashed the window, just follow the torchlight'."
When Mr Tonks eventually managed to get Lydia, of Wigan, out safely he suddenly saw Rob curled up in the corner unconscious and non-responsive.
“I couldn’t move him on my own but luckily at that point someone else arrived and we managed to drag him out together,” he said. “The heat was just unbearable in there, all the plastic around the patio had melted. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them in there.”
Lydia and Rob are currently being treated at Merseyside’s Whiston Hospital where Lydia’s condition is said to be ‘critical’. She suffered burns to her right arm and a ‘severely’ damaged respiratory system.
Rob’s condition is also said to be critical and a family member has said he is currently on a ventilator having suffered serious internal burns to his windpipe.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service described the fire as ‘well-developed and very smoky’ and said it had been caused by clothes being left too close to a log burner.
Mr Tonks, daughter Millie and her boyfriend Perry, 18, have not suffered any lasting damage from the smoke, instead he says he’s ‘suffering more emotionally’.
“I’m no kind of hero, it’s just something you do,” he said. “You just hope someone will do the same for your kids. I knew instantly those kids in there weren’t going to survive until the fire service arrived.
“I get laughed at for taking my little torch everywhere but it’s more than paid off.”