“I had to make the decision ‘do I stay or do I go?'” Remarkable story of Pride of Britain bravery winners who saved three people from burning plane

When a plane crashed into the A40 by Abergavenny, Daniel Nicholson and Joel Snarr risked their lives to pull passengers out of the flaming wreckage

Dan Nicholson and Joel Snarr[1]

The Pride of Britain Awards: a ceremony celebrating the country’s unsung heroes, the real-life remarkable people who went above and beyond for others. And this year they’re celebrating the bravery of Daniel Nicholson and Joel Snarr (L-R, main image), two men who saved the lives of three others under extraordinary circumstances.

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Here is their story…

For Daniel, May 12th was a normal Sunday, the sales manager driving home across the A40 by Abergavenny with his son when a light aircraft shot across the road.

“There was no warning or anything,” he tells RadioTimes.com. “A plane just appeared out of nowhere to the side of us – out of the trees and crashed into the barrier. It was two or three seconds from hitting us.”

Dan Nicholson
Dan Nicholson

Inside the plane were three people: Jack Moore, 19, sister Billie Manley, 16, and the pilot, their uncle Stuart Moore.

Although the three had planned to fly to watch Cardiff City play Manchester United, their plane suffered engine failure early in the flight, forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing. However, while attempting this, the plane smashed into a powerline, flipped upside-down and hurtled into the central reservation, bursting into flames. And all its passengers were trapped inside.

Despite the inferno in front of him, Daniel didn’t hesitate – within seconds he had jumped out of his car and bolted towards the wreckage. But with the doors unusable and the fire spreading, a rescue seemed impossible. “I tried kicking the front window in, but I was getting nowhere. It was tough thick Perspex glass – you need a special hammer to get through it,” he recalled.

“I then noticed the pilot in the front in shock and I could hear screaming in the back. I thought ‘this isn’t going to end well’… I could feel all the heat… It was at this point where I had to make the decision ‘do I stay or do I go?’

“That was the hard bit. I didn’t want to leave because I couldn’t imagine leaving that scene. I couldn’t bear the thought of that. But I was fearing for my own life at the same time.”

But Daniel did stay. With flames engulfing the aircraft and more fuel about to ignite, he carried on smashing against the window, his son watching on. However, after more kicks it would not break.

It was then Daniel spotted it. “Thankfully I noticed the back window was slightly cracked, so I just had a go at that one instead. And thankfully it gave way,” he says.

Out of the smashed window came two arms – one of the passengers, Jack, was reaching out. Daniel pulled him free of the plane, then seeing Jack’s sister Billie also trapped inside. “She was saying she couldn’t do it and I told her to keep her arms out,” Daniel remembers. “And at that point Joel arrived.”

Joel Snarr, a former army bomb disposal officer, had also been driving on the dual carriageway when the plane crashed, sprinting from his car to the scene. He arrived in time to help pull out Billie before yanking out pilot Stuart in one fell swoop. “There’s no way I could have got him out alone,” says Daniel.

And then it was all over: the passengers, pilot, Daniel and Joel ran from the plane, in which a series of explosions soon broke out. “We were all in a bit of shock,” says Daniel. “The adrenaline kicked in and I was in a bit of shock after, to be honest.”

By almost a miracle, everyone had escaped without life-threatening injuries, the plane’s paseengers treated by paramedics on scene. News of Daniel and Joel’s bravery soon spread and the pair even found themselves on ITV’s This Morning a few days later, recalling their ordeal to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.

On the show, the pair also received a thank you letter from Jack, the teen thanking each of them for saving his life with their bravery. “After the thank you note I got a bit emotional,” Daniel says.

“We both came crashing down after all the excitement and emotions. We were on a bit of a buzz, a high of adrenaline for the first few days and then the emotions kicked in.

“I couldn’t sleep. For a week after I was randomly crashing about anything. Normally I don’t get too emotional, but this really got me. I think it was the realisation of what we did, I suppose.”

Although Jack recovered well from the crash – even flying on a plane for a holiday two weeks later – the incident left mental scars behind for Stuart and Billie, who are suffering from PTSD after the flight.

Joel too was particularly affected by the incident. Having been medically discharged from the army with PTSD, the crash had a huge impact on the former bomb squad member and, understandably, he will not attend the award ceremony.

“We became quite close very quickly, but it was clear after a few days it brought a few things back for him,” says Daniel.

“He’s been in recovery for about 12 months or so from the army and this brought it home. I’m back to normal now, but he’s shut himself off. He’s cut himself off to the world. I can call and we have a bit of a chat every month… He needs to move on and forget about it and get on with his life.”

“We were brought together by these circumstances – we’ll always have that little bond and connection.”

His voice breaking slightly, Daniel continues: “I’m okay now, but when I talk about it, it does still affect me. It brings a little tear, you know. I am trying hard now not to get emotional. It’s certainly had an impact on me, I can’t deny that.

“But I value different things now. Things that stressed me out before, I’ve realised aren’t that important. It’s definitely changed my thinking, that’s for sure.

“No matter what, it has totally changed my outlook on everything.”

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The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB, will broadcast on ITV on 5th November at 8pm