Royal Navy Petty Officer Saves Neighbors From a Fire

Royal Navy portrait

Published Oct 27, 2021 2:11 PM by Royal Navy News

A sailor from the Royal Navy base HMS Collingwood put himself in harm’s way to save his neighbors during a fire.

Petty Officer Jon Thornber, 41, was relaxing at his partner’s home when a large bang from outside made him spring into action. Together with his partner, Gemma, he quickly realized there had been a huge explosion in one of the neighboring houses. He ran towards the scene, where he could see flames already engulfing the property. At the same time, he called the emergency services. 

Once at the house, he could see an elderly gentleman in the garden, confused, dazed and suffering from burns. Debris blocked the front gate and Jon kicked this aside, guiding the man to safety, before noticing an elderly woman trapped in the hallway.

The windows, doors and frames had all been blown out by the blast and this, together with her injuries, meant she was unable to escape the flames. Shouting reassurance and with no thought of his own safety, Jon entered the property, lifted her onto his shoulder and ran back through the debris and away from the house. Looking back, he could then see flames billowing out of the door where seconds before the woman had been standing.

“The emergency services arrived very quickly, and I wish to thank them as they are the true heroes who do this every day," he said. “I also want to thank the neighbors who fetched blankets for the couple and buckets of water to cool their burns. When the fire service arrived, they asked me to stay with a hose and cool the burns down whilst we waited for the ambulance service. 

“During this time, I used my Royal Navy training to keep the victims calm, coherent and as comfortable as possible and tried to get as much information from them to hand over to the ambulance service. I just did what needed to be done and I didn’t give it a second thought at the time.”

Since the incident, the police service have contacted Jon with a view to nominating him for a community bravery award and the local fire service have invited him, Gemma and his children to the station so they can thank him personally.

“Since the incident I have had a number of accolades and praise but I just have a massive passion for helping people," said Jon. “In my job, it’s Royal Navy officer candidates, students and colleagues but I feel that saving someone’s life is the ultimate in helping someone, although I wish this had never happened or wish this to happen again."

Jon is currently nearing the end of his naval career after 22 years’ service where he served on ships including HMS St Albans, HMS Gloucester and HMS Tyne, shore establishments and on deployment to over 30 different countries. 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.