A family who survived a New Year’s Eve crash on the M6 two years ago are now searching for the heroic passers-by who came to their rescue.
Gary Fordham says he owes his life and that of his young son Hayden and their dog Buster to a handful of people who stopped to help.
The 43-year-old suffered a seizure at the wheel and blacked out as he was driving a van northbound between junctions 15 and 16 in North Staffordshire.
The vehicle veered off the carriageway and up a verge, flipping onto its side before ending up facing the oncoming traffic on the hard shoulder. Hayden, who was 11 at the time, was stuck underneath his dad, but managed to find Gary’s mobile phone.
Now aged 13, he recalled: “I was really scared when my dad slumped over the wheel and when I was on the phone to 999. I didn’t have a clue where we were and Buster wouldn’t stop barking, so I had to try and calm him down at the same time.
“Dad was trying to undo his seatbelt and I was shouting at him to stop, otherwise he would’ve had fallen on me and crushed me.”
It was at that point that several motorists stopped to help. They managed to get Hayden and Buster out of the van and let the emergency services know the location.
Gary said: “One of the passers-by opened the back of the vehicle and took out a saw, which he used to get the window open to get them out. I owe so much, both to the members of the public who rescued Hayden and Buster and to the emergency services who came to our aid.
“There’s a photo of a young man holding Buster on a lead, keeping him safe from the traffic. I’d love to track him down.
“I know that one of the paramedics took Buster from the M6 and followed the ambulance in a response car. They were just amazing.”
Gary was freed by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, with the help of West Midlands Ambulance Service, who took him to Royal Stoke University Hospital. Remarkably, they all escaped with minor injuries following the crash on December 31, 2018.
But Gary, who had been visiting his parents in Swindon and was heading back home to Bradford when the seizure happened, had an MRI scan after the accident. It revealed he had a brain tumour.
The chemical dosing engineer underwent a craniotomy in April 2019 and had part of his skull removed the following month. Gary is still waiting to have a titanium plate fitted to replace his missing bone flap.
Now, as the second anniversary approaches of the crash, which ironically led to his tumour diagnosis, he hopes to trace his rescuers.
“I’ve always regretted that I never got to thank the wonderful people who stopped to help us on the M6,” said Gary. “I will be forever grateful for what they did that day. It would be lovely if Hayden and I could meet them.”
Hayden has also launched a fundraising appeal for Brain Tumour Research to help other families like his own.
Brain tumours kill more people under the age of 40 than any other cancer, but just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Gary had been suffering severe headaches for 15 years, but he says doctors had initially misdiagnosed his symptoms.
Matthew Price, community fundraising manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “We wish Hayden and Gary the best of luck with the search for their rescuers and thank them both sincerely for supporting for our vital work.”