Hero lorry driver risked his life to save pensioner from burning car wreck

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A brave lorry driver who risked his life to save a motorist from burning to death after a car crash has been hailed as a 'true hero'

Robert Kirk, 48, leapt from his cab to smash the vehicle's window with his fist before bending a buckled door with 'brute force' to get to a trapped pensioner.

On the morning of January 19 Mr Kirk had been driving in his HGV behind retired bus driver Bernard Hopwood, 81, when he witnessed Mr Hopwood's Ford Focus plough into the back of a tractor's trailer.

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The tractor had pulled up with mechanical issues, at Werrington in Staffordshire, and Mr Hopwood's vehicle didn't appear to brake before the collision.

Realising the driver had to be freed from a now burning vehicle, Mr Kirk ignored the risk to himself of an explosion and smashed the driver's window with his fist then bent the door back enough to pull the driver out of the car before the flames reached him.

Mr Kirk, who is also a Regimental Sgt Major Instructor with the Army Cadet Force at Driffield, has now been awarded one of the country’s top bravery honours for his fight to save the 81-year-old car driver.

His heroics didn't stop there as he then administered first aid on the spot until paramedics arrived and took over.

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Sadly, despite all their efforts Mr Hopwood, 81, had been critically injured and died at the scene of the crash.

Now though, in recognition of his bravery in his fight to save the man Mr Kirk has been awarded a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Parchment, receiving personal praise of its secretary, Andrew Chapman, in the process.

“He ignored the danger to himself to go and try and rescue the driver from the wreck. It was an incredibly dangerous situation," said Mr Chapman.

"There is always the very real danger of an explosion when there is a fire after a car crash but he went in and using brute force managed to get the driver out."

Mr Chapman added: "Sadly the driver did not survive by without doubt Mr Kirk was a true hero and richly deserves the award he is to receive.”

Founded in 1774 by two of the day's eminent medical men, William Hawes and Thomas Cogan, the Royal Humane Society is the premier national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life.

However, as it emerged that numerous people were prepared to put their own lives at risk to save others, the awards scheme evolved, and today a variety of awards are made depending on the bravery involved.

The Society also awards non health care professionals who perform a successful resuscitation and has considered over 87,000 cases and made over 200,000 awards since it was set up.

It was one of a select number of organisations to receive a donation from the Patron’s fund which was set up to acknowledge work done by organisations of which the Queen is the patron, to mark her 90th birthday.

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