Saving the life of a boy critically injured in a devastating car crash was reward enough for a Barrowby hero – but he is still ‘honoured’ to be given a national life-saving award for his actions.
Charles Douse, along with Norfolk nurses Nicola King and Emma Simmonds, will receive Royal Humane Society honours at a ceremony in May. All three helped saved the lives of two boys at the scene of the accident in Terrington St Clement, Norfolk, back in December 2015.
Mr Douse, now 62, was shocked when he came across the scene of the horrific crash.
He was driving along the A17 on his way to the surgery in the village – in his work as an IT engineer – when he came across what he described as ‘carnage’. He first noticed an articulated lorry at an angle on a central reservation but soon saw the wreckage of a car that had been hit, with a woman in the driver’s seat.
Mr Douse, of Pastures Road, told the Journal: “I had resigned myself to the fact that she had died, from her position and the fact that she was that sort of colour, but I went through the routine of checking her. I couldn’t see any way of doing anything for her.
“As I stood up, it was only then that I realised there were two other people in the car – they were children and they were the same grey colour.”
As a former community first responder with LIVES, Mr Douse was equipped with the right knowledge and skills to save lives.
He was able to reach in through a shattered window – which had covered the boys in tiny slivers of glass – and help five-year-old Ellis Pesterfield in the back seat.
He was not breathing and Mr Douse could not feel a pulse. “There was no sign of life whatsoever,” said Mr Douse.
With the nurses helping Ellis’s older brother, Jayden, who was eight, Mr Douse was able to concentrate on giving emergency care to Ellis. Suddenly, he took a breath and began breathing on his own. “It took a long time for him to come back, but he did come back,” said Mr Douse.
By this time, the nurses had freed Jayden from the car and were giving him CPR on the roadside.
It soon became urgent to free Ellis from the car, as he vomited and had to be put into the recovery position to keep his airways clear.
Mr Douse said: “We had to get him out. Another gentleman so gently lifted him out the car and put him in the recovery position.
“Ellis had swallowed his own sick which was one of the reasons he was so poorly.”
Emergency services, including an air ambulance, arrived within minutes. The boys were treated and taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge – Ellis suffered a fractured pelvis while Jayden had damaged his collarbone. They went on to make full recoveries.
Sadly, their aunt, Laura Pesterfield, was pronounced dead, at the age of 21. At an inquest into her death, the coroner ruled there was nothing the lorry driver could have done to avoid the collision, after Miss Pesterfield drove her Vauxhall Astra into its path.
The three life-savers have since met with the boys’ family and become good friends.
On meeting them again for the first time, Mr Douse said: “I found it emotional but in a good way. I look back and think, would I do it again, knowing it was so horrific and upsetting, but to see those two running around and being boys and showing no signs of any injuries...it was wonderful.”
Ellis and Jayden sent Mr Douse a thank you card after the accident and a special framed photo and message for Christmas, which he treasures.
At a ceremony in Norwich in May, following recommendations from Norfolk Police, he will receive a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Parchment and a Resuscitation Certificate, while the two nurses will receive Certificates of Commendation.
Speaking as he announced the awards at the society’s London headquarters this week, secretary Dick Wilkinson said: “They were, put simply, the right people in the right place at the right time. Tragically the driver of the vehicle was killed. But had it not been for the swift action of Mr Douse, Ms King and Ms Simmonds, the final outcome could have been even more tragic.
He added: “They richly deserve the awards they are to receive.”
Mr Douse’s wife, Irene, 63, said: “I couldn’t be prouder of my husband.”
The couple both volunteer for the Lincolnshire Emergency Blood Bikes Service.