Despite disabilities that have put one time Rye Fireman Dave Benn in a wheelchair he didn’t hesitate when the car in front of him left the road and ended up in a waterway at Small Hythe.
With the help of his wife, Barbara, he struggled out of his car and found a rope in the boot. By this time the vehicle in the ditch was sinking fast. Dave called to the driver to lower the windows before the electrical system went down. He threw one end of the rope to the driver of the stricken vehicle and instructed him to tie it round the steering wheel.
The car was filling up fast but was still, at this time, floating. A postman and the driver of another vehicle had arrived on the scene and helped Dave pull the motor towards the bank.
The occupants were an elderly couple and with the motor fast filling with water Dave asked the lady if she could manage to get over the seat into the back. Both were then pulled out to safety through the open offside windows.
When asked how he had managed to react so quickly despite his mobility problem he replied that adrenaline had overcome his disability and fire and rescue training and experience had kept him calm in the emergency.
He did say, however, that before his journey, when he cleared out the boot to fit in his wheelchair, he had almost forgotten to put the rope back. As far as he knew the occupants of the car, a Mr. & Mrs. Carley, were none the worse for their watery experience.
This incident came just 40 years after Dave Benn was involved in another river rescue, when the quick thinking, off duty, Rye Fireman snatched a three year old from the Tillingham and revived him with the “Kiss of Life”, as reported by the local press in 1971. Dave’s wife Barbara commented “His river rescues are getting to be a bit of a habit!”
He was rewarded for his ‘Humanity, promptitude and skill’ when the Royal Humane Society presented him with a ‘Resuscitation Certificate’
In 1967 Dave Benn was part of the Rye four man team that won the covered “Dumbrell Cup”, competed for by all East Sussex Fire Brigades. This was the the first time that Rye had ever won the award and when consideration is given to
the fact that Rye’s firemen were, and still are, a part time force, and the majority of the other crews came from full time brigades, the magnitude of their victory is put into perspective. The Rye team, pictured below with the trophy are, left to right, Dick Elliott, Dave Benn, Bob Rogers and Michael Bourn. Dave and Bob were the youngest members of the Rye Fire Service at that time and Michael followed in the footsteps of his father Frank, becoming Rye Fire Chief. Michael was later awarded an MBE for his services to Rye Fire Brigade.
Rye’s Own May 2010
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