Haywards Heath firefighter saves casualties 4,900m up Peruvian canyon

editorial image

A firefighter used rocks, planks of wood and scarves as medical equipment to save casualties after a minibus fell down the side of a Peruvian canyon.

Haywards Heath crew member and qualified mountain leader, Phil Maynard, 43, instructed foreign onlookers to help secure the fallen minibus and pull six casualties to safe land on Peru’s highest road, 4,900m up the Colca Canyon in Peru.

He was on one of his final tours up the canyon after spending one month in Peru as an expedition leader, when his tour bus came across the minibus which had rolled about 60 metres down the side of the mountain on July 30.

On returning home on Monday (August 3), Phil described the challenge, which saw him working for more than three hours, against freezing temperatures, to save a man in his 40s who was stuck in the minibus, had a broken leg and was bleeding heavily.

“We had no phone signal,” Phil said. “No one had called an ambulance, so there was no way of knowing if anyone was on their way to help. One person had gone to get help but the nearest town was two hours away.

“The man, in his 40s, was deteriorating quite rapidly so I needed to get him out. We got him out and about 10 minutes after, the ambulance arrived.

“I was very concerned about that one chap. I thought we might lose him.”

Casualties included a young girl with a broken collar bone, a woman with spinal injuries, two men with severe back pain and two other people trapped inside the minibus with broken legs.

The tour leader acted as Phil’s interpreter so he could instruct the local people.

He told them to make stretchers for the casualties using planks and scarves to tie them together.

“It was so difficult. I didn’t have a team of trained people around me like I’m used to. I had no equipment. I couldn’t give the medical attention I wanted to.

“It was a case of reassuring him, talking to him, stemming the flow of the blood and trying to monitor his situation, checking his pupils, blood pressure.

“I would press his finger nails to see how fast the blood returned to them, to see if he was coherent and try and keep him conscious . When that started to deteriorate we knew we had to move him.”

The survival of all 16 passengers in the bus was reported as a ‘miracle’ in Peruvian newspapers.

Phil added: “Not knowing if we were going to get any support at all, it was all a question of ‘what am I going to do now?’.”

They came across the minibus at around 3.30pm and at around 7pm, one ambulance finally arrived, just in time to take the man.

“I was shivering with cold by the time we left.”

The man in his 40s survived and was taken into intensive care for 15 days.