Submariner who escaped van blaze given new wheelchair

PUBLISHED: 13:30 21 October 2015

Chris Baker (left) of the charity Brave with Kevin Perry from 'We Remember Submariners' giving Mark Hancock a electric wheelchair, watched by friends and supporters.

Chris Baker (left) of the charity Brave with Kevin Perry from 'We Remember Submariners' giving Mark Hancock a electric wheelchair, watched by friends and supporters.

Archant

AN EX-NAVY serviceman and double-leg amputee faced a terrifying ordeal when flames engulfed the front of his van, forcing him to throw himself out of the passenger seat window.

Mark Hancock's van on fire.Mark Hancock's van on fire.

His electric wheelchair was destroyed in the blaze, and he later found out it was not covered by his car insurance.

But a new charity has bought him a new electric wheelchair – and enabled him to continue his work helping disadvantaged youngsters.

Former submariner Mr Hancock from Worle, who left the navy in 1990, said: “I was going around Brockley Combe when I smelled some burning.

“It wasn’t until I got to the fourth corner I saw flames across the passenger side and then the windscreen.

Chris Baker (right) of the charity Brave giving Mark Hancock a electric wheelchair.Chris Baker (right) of the charity Brave giving Mark Hancock a electric wheelchair.

“I took the van to the side, I couldn’t see where I was because of the smoke.

“I couldn’t go out of the driver’s door because of the traffic up and down the road, so I threw myself across the passenger side and went out of the passenger window.

“It is quite a long way up so I got a bit battered and bruised.

“Luckily two guys behind me stopped and dragged me 30 feet down the road.”

Chris Baker (left) of the charity Brave giving Mark Hancock a electric wheelchair.Chris Baker (left) of the charity Brave giving Mark Hancock a electric wheelchair.

Mr Hancock, aged 47, believes a fuse box under the passenger seat caused the fire.

He said: “It is probably the most frightened I have been in a long time.

“It scared the living daylights out of me. I shook for quite a while.”

Earlier this year, Chris Baker, who is an army veteran himself, set up a charity called BRAVE, which stands for Bikers Respect All Veterans Equally.

He came across Mr Hancock’s post on Facebook about the incident and the loss of his wheelchair, and set up an online fundraising page.

The response was immediate, and helped to raise most of the £1,700 needed for a new wheelchair in just three weeks.

The wheelchair was handed over at a bike shed in Wick St Lawrence, where father-of-five Mr Hancock works with youngsters to help them develop new skills.

Without the electric wheelchair, it was more difficult for Mr Hancock to move around the area where they repair the bikes.

WMUK Mobility, based in Worle, has also helped to provide free insurance for Mr Hancock.

Mr Baker said: “This has meant Mark can have his independence back and can carry on his charity work of helping youngsters with troubles engage with life in the form of biking and motor mechanics.

“Mark Hancock is an inspirational man.”

Mr Hancock said: “I just can’t thank them enough. Absolutely everybody has helped and been wonderful.”

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