AN off-duty retained firefighter who was first on the scene at a tragic car crash on the Isle of Skye has been recognised for his actions.
Allan MacLeod, 39, was travelling between jobs on the island when he came across the accident on Wednesday, August 8.
The four-vehicle collision on the A87 sadly claimed the life of 54-year-old Ewen MacKay from Teangue as his son Padraig, 16, was left trapped and seriously injured.
Allan used his Scottish Fire and Rescue Service training to immediately take control at the scene.
The dad-of-two quickly identified Padraig as being in critical need of first aid, and marshalled members of the public to help remove him from the vehicle and stabilise him – ensuring he could be airlifted to a Glasgow hospital for emergency treatment.
The professional painter and decorator has since been honoured by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Chief Officer Alasdair Hay for his professionalism.
But Allan used the opportunity to pay personal tribute to teenager Padraig.
He said: “When I came across the accident I couldn’t actually see anything – the cars in front of me braked suddenly and I knew something was wrong.
“I wasn’t the closest person to the crash but I was the first one to get out and start checking on people. It wasn’t a good situation – I knew straight away what we were dealing with.
“You have two choices – fight or flight – but my training kicked in straight away and the response was natural.
“I marshalled people to help me and taught some basic first aid – but it quickly became apparent that a young man in the van was my main priority.
“Together we had to get him out of the van, stabilise him and comfort him too while the crews and ambulance were on their way.
“People might say that we gave the lad, Padraig, a chance but he took that chance himself - and he fought through.”
Padraig had been traveling in his dad Ewen’s van when the collision occurred. He was later airlifted 230 miles to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where he is still being treated for serious injuries. Ewen, a joiner, sadly passed away in the accident.
Allan told how he was humbled by the commendation but his thoughts remain very firmly with the family.
He continued: “I’ve been keeping in touch with the family for updates on Padraig and I am so glad to hear he is making good progress – in fact we are looking to meet up in the near future.
“I’m humbled to receive this commendation, I truly am.
“But my thoughts are still with Ewen and his family, and Padraig.”
Allan - who lives with his wife Joanna, daughter Lexy, aged 12 and son Lachlann, aged 7 - is a retained firefighter with almost 20 years’ service, based at Staffin Community Fire Station on Skye.
He continued: “The communities up here look out for each other, everyone knows who’s who on the island and there’s always mutual friends or family.
“Being a retained firefighter is something unique – and I believe any one of them would have done the same thing as me if they came across that accident.
“That’s why I feel like I can’t accept this commendation for myself – it has to be for all of the men and women who serve in the area because they would have absolutely done the same.
“We are trained for this, and that does not go away when you are off duty – the firefighter in you is always there.”
Kenny MacKay is Ewen’s brother and has reached out to meet with Allan. He said: “My brother was a devoted father, a loving husband and a friend to many.
“We cannot begin to describe our loss and heartbreak, after he was taken from us too soon.
“Our heartfelt thanks goes out to all of the emergency services who attended that day, including Allan, who we know did everything in his power to help Ewen and Padraig.
“We are gladdened to hear he is being recognised for his actions – I would be happy to personally thank Allan.”
SFRS Chief Officer Alasdair Hay presented Allan with his commendation in Inverness on Friday, September 7.
He said: “Our thoughts remain very firmly with the family of Ewen MacKay who have suffered the most terrible loss and with the wider community, and we very much hope that Padraig makes a full and speedy recovery.
“Allan’s actions not only ensured that this young man was quickly removed from a dangerous situation to receive the treatment he needed, but also that the crews who arrived at the scene had a full appraisal of the situation and knew exactly what needed to be done.
“It was therefore a privilege to present Allan with this commendation - he serves as an example of the outstanding commitment shown by retained firefighters to their communities.”