A team of Northampton firefighters who saved the lives of four people involved in one of the most serious crashes seen on home soil have been commended for their work.
Eight people died when a lorry they were travelling in was hit by a lorry and shunted into the back of another truck that had stopped in the inside lane of the M1 on August 26, last year.
The incident, which happened close to Newport Pagnell, near junction 14 of the M1, was described by a judge as one of the most serious in the UK for 26 years.
A team from Mereway station's Red Watch were among crews across the country to assist at the scene during a seven-hour operation.
And this week they have been handed a fire service commendation for their part in the operation.
Chief fire officer Jason Thelwell, of Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS), visited the county to make the presentation to Red Watch.
He said: "This was one of the most harrowing events and was described by the trial judge as the most serious collision in the UK for 26 years.
"The actions carried out by the fire and rescue staff on the day were exemplary. The crews witnessed and worked in extreme conditions and I salute them all for their dedication.”
Group manager Barry Mullan was among the firefighters in attendance on the day.
He said: "This was a very challenging and distressing scene. Looking back, Red Watch Mereway crew and I were proud to be part of the larger emergency response from fire, police and medical services. Between us all we saved the lives of four people and provided as much dignity and respect to those who died as possible. That is recognition enough.”
Minibus driver Cyriac Joseph had been waiting with his hazard lights on to go around the lorry of Ryszard Masierak's stopped lorry on the night of August 26 last year, when Fed Ex driver David Wagstaff ploughed into the back of the van, forcing it under Masierak's vehicle.
Masierak, who was was twice over the legal alcohol limit, had stopped because he was "sweating and had a headache". He was jailed for 14 years for causing death by dangerous driving.
Wagstaff received a 40-month term for causing death by careless driving.
Chief fire officer for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) Daren Dovey, said: “Sadly our firefighters at NFRS attend road traffic collisions regularly so it is very much part of our usual work, but this collision on the M1 was among the most serious we have ever encountered.
“All of the NFRS staff who attended this incident deserve this commendation, which recognises the teamwork that went into carrying out a harrowing, seven-hour rescue operation.
“We always hope never to have to encounter this type of scene, but I am so proud that, even in the most demanding circumstances, our crews carried out their professional duties with such a high level of calm, dedication and compassion.
“Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones and family members in the collision that day.”