Dealer’s pride in hero HGV driver A dealer’s long serving delivery driver has received a major award for using his lorry to stop a runaway van, helping to save a man’s life. David Williams reports. Russell Dagless has been an HGV driver for John Deere main dealer Ben Burgess for 22 years spending most of his time collecting and delivering agricultural machinery around East Anglia. Earlier this year he was returning to the company’s Norwich depot when he came across an unconscious motorist whose van was out of control on a dual carriageway, with his foot pressed on the accelerator. “I had been delivering some tractors to our Beeston depot,” explained Russell, “and was on the A47 dual carriageway heading back to Norwich mid-afternoon on a Friday. The day had gone well and I was optimistic that my weekend might start on time, when I saw a white van driving erratically at speed and rubbing along the central reservation barrier. As I came alongside it, I could see the unconscious driver slumped in his seat with his head down by the steering wheel.” After several cars had undertaken the van, a clearer road allowed Russell to take action. “I don’t know how his van remained in the centre of the road but luckily it did for 400–500m. It was just lucky that my trailer was empty so I had the power and acceleration to overtake and I remained alongside, gradually closing in until the gap was narrow enough to nip the van and stop it. Looking back, I acted purely
on impulse although if the trailer had been loaded with machinery I would have had to think twice about my actions. But I just had to deal with the situation,” he said. Having been brought to a stop the van was wedged between the lorry trailer and barrier and people in a car behind immediately jumped out to assist. With the doors jammed shut and attempts to gain access through the rear doors unsuccessful, the side window was used. “Luckily those in the car had good first-aid knowledge and helped briefly until an off-duty fireman with excellent first-aid capability also stopped. Then a passing off-duty paramedic gave treatment until the police and ambulance arrived,” said Russell. The van driver was laid on the lorry trailer during treatment before being transferred to the ambulance. “The beaver tail trailer was perfect, from stopping the van to treating the sick driver and then it also happened to be exactly the same height as the ambulance door making it easy to transfer him,” added Russell. “It hadn’t a scratch on it either!”
Selfless actions Russell describes everyone involved as incredible and the van driver, who had suffered a bleed to the brain, survived. “Luckily plenty of witnesses
Ben Burgess machinery delivery driver Russell Dagless said he just did what he felt he had to at the time.
could explain what had happened. I was joined in my cab by a policeman who laughed that he could give me so many tickets that day and although they had to investigate I quickly received confirmation that I wasn’t in any trouble,” he said. Russell’s actions remained relatively unknown until early July when the National Humane Society revealed that he had been selected for one of its highest awards. A second lorry driver travelling on the same road had caught the moment that Russell stopped the runaway van on his dash-cam and viewing the footage shows how well Russell’s manoeuvre was carried out as well as the potential consequences had he been unsuccessful. The Testimonial on Vellum Award will be presented later this year with the charity adding that his selfless actions were ‘like a scene from an all action movie showing incredible courage’.
the past few weeks have amazed me with the interest it has created. “I received a visit from representatives of the ‘Pride of Britain’ awards last week as apparently I have been nominated, but everyone who was there that day played a part and it was so lucky that of those who stopped shortly after, so many knew how to deal with the casualty.” Ben Burgess managing director Ben Turner was delighted with his driver’s quick thinking. “When Russell told us what he had done we were all pleased and said well done. Once we received the video footage, it was clear to see just what a fantastic job he did. With the assistance of the other drivers that stopped, he helped save a man’s life and everyone in our company is very proud of him.
Right place, right vehicle “People have referred to me as a ‘hero’, but I think I was just in the right place with the right vehicle at the right time to help,” he added. “People have helped me over the years and maybe it was just my turn to pay some of that back. Since the award became public knowledge the dash-cam footage has been shown around the world including on national news in Australia, and A still image, recorded on the dash-cam of a following lorry shows the runaway van moments after being brought to a stop by the Ben Burgess machinery transporter, potentially preventing a major incident and saving the driver’s life.
Russell’s HGV in more familiar surroundings loaded with machinery at the dealer’s Norwich depot.
”Russell delivers new and used agricultural and construction machinery locally to our customers. He also spends time travelling to UK ports delivering used equipment for export. Add internal machinery transfer between our six depots, plus the delivery of our agricultural hire fleet and he’s a very busy man!” ■
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