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Bravery honours for former Bury St Edmunds and Thurston air cadets who risked their lives for others



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Former air cadets who risked their lives for the victims of a head-on collision have received long-awaited national bravery honours.

On August 31, 2018, Elliot Potter, 21, of Bury St Edmunds, and Rachel Laura Quercia-Smale, 22, of Thurston, were among the first at the scene of the crash on the A134 near Alpheton involving a MINI and BMW.

They encountered fuel leaking on to the road, meaning there was an explosion risk. Despite this, they wanted to help the cars’ occupants and, thanks to their air cadet training, were the only people there qualified in first aid.

(L-R)Elliot Potter and Rachel Quercia-Smale have been given bravery awards by the Royal Humane Society..Pic - Richard Marsham/www.rmg-photography.co.uk. (43746312)
(L-R)Elliot Potter and Rachel Quercia-Smale have been given bravery awards by the Royal Humane Society..Pic - Richard Marsham/www.rmg-photography.co.uk. (43746312)

In order to assess the situation, Rachel was forced to stand in a pool of petrol while smoke rose from the BMW.

The former Thurston Community College pupil realised one of the car’s occupants, a woman, was dead but worked through the roof to immobilise the spine of the other occupant, a man, and supported him until the air ambulance arrived.

“I didn’t have any other first aid training than what I’d done in the cadets, but I felt so confident about what to do.

“While we were waiting for the emergency services I kind of blocked everything else out and just concentrated on everything else in hand,” said Rachel, who was in 863 (Thurston) Squadron Air Training Corps at the time.

Elliot cared for a woman in the other car by reassuring her, protecting her spine and relieving pressure on her legs by lifting the steering column.

The Treatt flavour technician described the 15 minutes waiting for emergency services to arrive as ‘like a lifetime’.

“The whole experience really made me stop and think about what I wanted to do,” said Elliot, who was with 301 (Bury St Edmunds) Squadron until he turned 20 and is now a civilian instructor.

The man Rachel cared for died later in hospital, however the woman Elliot looked after suffered life-changing injuries but survived.

Rachel was awarded a Royal Humane Society Testimonial on Vellum, approved by society president Princess Alexandra. Elliot was also awarded Testimonial on Vellum by the society, which is the national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life.

They received their awards shortly before Christmas.

Elliot added: “I didn’t do it for recognition.”

Andrew Chapman, society secretary, said : “They were both true heroes. Anyone who goes near a crashed vehicle that is smoking and has fuel spilling out of it is risking their life.

“It takes immense courage to do what they did.”

Regina ‘Gina’ Brook, 79, of Bures Hamlet, and Bruno Delmote, 69, Great Henny, who were travelling in a gold BMW 325i, died following the collision.

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