A DRIVER who was pulled from the wreckage of his car seconds before it erupted into flames told of his ordeal last night and thanked the “heroes” who saved his life.

Father-of-one Andrew Basham, 32, said the people who helped him escape were heroes who had saved him from a horrific death.

Police have renewed an appeal to trace a lorry driver who risked his life to help Mr Basham, and another driver also trapped in his car following the crash on the A68, near Darlington, on Wednesday evening.

The Northern Echo: Heroes pull driver from car before it explodes into fireball The scene of the head-on collision near junction 58 of the A1(M) at Darlington which saw both cars burst into flames

Mr Basham suffered a fractured coccyx after he was involved in the head-on collision near junction 58 of the A1(M) at Darlington at about 5.50pm, which saw both cars burst into a flames, engulfing them in a blazing fireball.

Speaking from his hospital bed last night, Mr Basham, who lives in Shildon, County Durham, said he had not realised the extent of the fire until he saw the front of yesterday’s Northern Echo.

“It was a bit of a shock,” he said. “I knew it had gone up, but I didn’t realise how bad it was.”

The office worker at the Clipper factory in Darlington, said he had been travelling to work to start a nightshift when he lost control of his Renault Clio near the junction with Burtree Lane.

The hatchback crossed the central reservation and collided with another car, a Citroen C3, driven by a 60-yearold man from Toft Hill, Bishop Auckland, in County Durham.

“Next thing I know, I was sitting with the car door open and my legs out of the door,” he said. “There was a man who came over to see if I was all right. He checked me over, checked if my neck was broken, then helped me up and along a bit.

“He handed me to someone else, then went to help the other man in the other car.

“The lady who was phoning the emergency services noticed the car was starting to spark and catch fire and got me to move. I was put down next to a bale of hay. Not long after – probably a few minutes after I was out of the car – it all went up.

“It was probably sparking before I got out of the car.”

Mr Basham, who is originally from Tow Law, County Durham, said the people who helped him were heroic.

“Even if it hadn’t gone up, I would still be very grateful to these people. These days, you never know who’s going to help you out.

“I wish I knew his name so I could thank him. He is a good Samaritan.”

Both drivers were taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital by ambulance. The 60-yearold driver suffered a fractured spine, breast bone and elbow.

The police would like to hear from a lorry driver who they believe helped carry Mr Basham to safety, but left before they could get his details.

Police have heard from some of the other people who helped the drivers, but they do not wish to be identified.

Mr Basham’s partner, Lynsey Fulcher, told The Northern Echo she had realised something was wrong after Mr Basham failed to return any of her text messages.

She discovered what had happened when her mother phoned his workplace.

“I was hysterical when I found out,” the 33-year-old said. “I just started screaming.

I didn’t sleep at all that night.”

The couple, who have been together for seven years and live together in Shildon, have just had their first child, George, who is nine weeks old and was born eight weeks prematurely.

“Andrew is such a nice guy – a real gentleman. Everyone likes him,” she said. “We are best friends.”

She said the A68 was a dangerous road.

“It is lethal. There have been a lot of accidents on it.

You never think it is going to be you, though.”

She said the people who helped Mr Basham were heroes.

“I am so grateful to whoever it was who helped him,” added Ms Fulcher. “They deserve a medal.

“It doesn’t bear to think about what could have happened if they hadn’t helped.”

Anyone who witnessed the accident is asked to ring the Durham and Cleveland specialist operations unit on 0345- 60-60-365.