Bravery awardee relives nightmare
IT'S an everyday industrial smell that can transport former pilot and now Belli Park farmer Tim Jones back to a hellish scene of selfless courage.
Diesel was the overwhelming enemy that early afternoon back on November 14, 1997, as it fed a fire inside a crashed prime mover leaning precariously on a gully slope in country Victoria.
"I've hated diesel ever since," said 63-year-old Mr Jones last Friday in the lead-up to yesterday's Australian Bravery Decorations, where he received a commendation for brave conduct.
"A bunch of us were on a camping trip - we were in a mini-bus and we were driving along and we came across a road accident on a bridge.
"It was a semi-trailer. The trailer was still on the approach to the bridge on its side and it had taken out a car head-on.
"The lady in the car received injuries, but not bad. The prime mover broke away from the trailer and rolled down a gully and the driver was inside, upside down.
"There was smoke and a guy calling out for help."
Mr Jones and four of his mates acted without hesitation. Mr Jones said the others on the day who put themselves in harm's way were Peter Collins, John Holland, Martin Ancone and Bill Denny.
"I got into the cab twice. The first time I was worried about the vehicle rolling down the hill on top of me, and of course it was on fire," Mr Jones said.
"I was able to get in through a broken window on the other side and get to the guy. He was pinned by the structure.
"One of the other guys ran up to the road and got a fire extinguisher and then I went back inside to try and put the fire out. Burning fuel was running down his legs. Diesel is very hard to put out."
The belated honour certainly has brought the graphic memories back to life.
"I'll never forget the guy - I had to crawl over the top of him with the fire extinguisher to try and get the fire out.
"I was getting soaked in diesel more and more and the fuel was coming down, so I just said to the guys, 'It's going to blow', so we all cleared backwards and up it went.
"We did our best to put the fire out - the poor bugger was incinerated in front of us as the truck went up."
The award reads: "For his actions, Mr Jones is commended for brave conduct."
Mr Jones said the awards hoped to encourage others to react in a similar manner if they were confronted by a life-and-death emergency, as people do every year.
"I didn't have any second thoughts about helping the guy, but I was assessing the situation and was wary of the truck rolling on top of us. I'd been trained (as a pilot) in emergency situations ...
"My feeling is that it's the old country Australian thing - you go and help anybody who's got a problem. That's what really it was about."