Episode 1 Close Calls: On Camera


Episode 1

Nick Knowles presents close calls caught on film. A young man disappears down a huge crack in the ice thousands of feet up a mountain.


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Transcript


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A close call, a moment of danger when life can hang in the balance.

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It was about survival at that point.

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A split second where the outcome could go either way.

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I knew I had to get the people out of the car.

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The difference between disaster...

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and survival.

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It was terrifying. I thought it was game over.

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These are the people that have been there and lived to tell the tale.

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The doctor had a word with us,

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and thought he was preparing us for David's death.

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It was something out of a horror film.

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Their instincts and resources...

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coupled with the quick thinking of others helped to pull them through.

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I wanted to keep him awake. I needed to keep him awake.

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And their dramatic experiences were recorded on camera.

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Your life is on the line.

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It's a day they will never forget.

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The day they had a close call.

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Today on Close Calls, skiing too close to the edge,

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a holiday-maker makes a disastrous error high on an Alpine glacier,

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falling deep into a bottomless crack in the ice.

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I heard a shout, "Oh, my God.

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"Oh, my God. Matt's skied into the crevasse!"

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Also today, a car is on fire at a safari park.

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A family is facing a terrible dilemma.

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How long can they stay in the car before they have to make

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a run for it? Not long enough.

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My son opened the door and ran.

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And police chase a high-speed driver after he overtakes

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four un-marked cars, only to find he's making a special delivery.

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I've got out of the police vehicle,

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run to the passenger side, thinking I'm going to make an arrest.

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It's winter in the French Alps,

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and three mates are heading out on an adventure.

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Their off the mark ski run's on a glacier.

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It's challenging and exciting. And they're just getting started.

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They're all experienced skiers but this is a risky place.

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There are warning signs everywhere. And you can see why.

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Their helmet camera records them edging along this precarious ridge.

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The friends are feeling the fear.

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But they're about to face much greater danger

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when the thrill of adventure becomes a desperate struggle for survival.

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I heard a shout saying, "Oh, my God.

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"Oh, my God. Matt's skied into the crevasse!"

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Matt Allen works hard in his family's catering firm

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in Belfast for 11 months of the year but his passion lies

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hundreds of miles away in France, in the snowfields of Chamonix.

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Matt lives to ski.

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Ideally, with his ski mates, Rick Greenwood and Matt Donovan.

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Every year, I just take all my holidays, one month, and go and

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live like I can ski every day, and pretend like it'll last forever.

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It's February, and Matt's back in the resort with his friends.

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Matt's been there two weeks and skiing hard.

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Today, he's tired and planning on taking a rest day.

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But, then, an opportunity comes up.

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We got a phone call.

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One of our very good friends, Rick. He was free to ski that day as well.

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He had the day off work. And the weather was just getting better and better.

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I was just sitting there. And Matt mentioned the Vallee Blanche.

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We don't go that often because it's a weather thing, and timing.

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So, I've got my two best friends, the weather's perfect,

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everything fell into place, so me and my favourite people in the world

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to ski with, let's go, let's go and have an adventure in Vallee Blanche.

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The Vallee Blanche, the White Valley, links France and Italy.

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Skiing here requires skill, nerve, and lots of safety equipment.

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They load up with shovels, avalanche beacons, harnesses,

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and a helmet camera.

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They're looking forward to an exciting day of high-octane skiing.

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Getting there is a challenge in itself.

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Warning signs tell them there are no marked paths,

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and no ski patrols, no prepared ski runs, no avalanche protection.

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Plus, there are crevasses ahead,

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and they have to cross the notorious Arete Ridge.

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So, the start of the day is exciting. It's scary.

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You get that little adrenaline lift.

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And Matt doesn't like it, I don't like it. It's just...

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It's just a point you have to get over.

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Just myself, Matt, and Matt Donovan, just to do one run

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and make the most of a blue sky, powder day.

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Now the friends are outside the patrolled ski area.

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They have to rely on skills, experience, and each other.

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This is adventure. This is where we're going now.

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You feel like an explorer.

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The cliff is sheer. To the left, the drop is 12,000 feet.

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They continue to inch along the narrowest of ridges.

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You don't fall down to the left-hand side, it is a no-fall zone,

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the left side. You will roll a bit to the snow, and then fall.

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And that's it. It's game over.

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'I just want to get there. Now.'

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Soon, they're at the highest point,

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and at the start of the toughest 22km run home.

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This is extreme glacier skiing.

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Glacier is basically a huge body of ice that has cracks,

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crevasses all through it in different areas.

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But it's covered in snow.

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Where you're skiing, a lot of times, all you see is the snow.

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You don't realise you're anywhere different.

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To ski on... it carries a lot of dangers, a lot of risks.

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Skiing here is not for the faint-hearted.

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They need to avoid weak snow bridges, thin layers of snow,

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deceptively covering gaping deep crevasses.

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As we come over the lip,

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Matt's actually pointing out there's a crevasse here, that you can see.

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That's a small one that we went around

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cos it's quite visible from where we were, so it's no issue.

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They move past it. Matt's feeling tired. By now, his knees are aching.

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He drops back, opening up a worrying gap between him and his friends.

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The guys skied on ahead, I let them get a bit of distance.

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So, I was coming in, nice and slowly, in the back.

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And we got quite a bit of distance between us.

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After the first pitch, as we were coming towards the crevasses,

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I skied over the snow bridge of an incredibly big crevasse.

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And got safe on the other side.

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And then Matt - Matt Donovan - came just behind me, and we both

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pulled up just to the other side of the crevasse, in the safe zone.

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I saw where they were in the distance.

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And I just, sort of, set a straight line towards them.

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As I got closer and closer and closer to them,

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I started to look up and I started to realise,

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once I was very close, that there was something...

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something was just not right about where I was.

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I knew I was in the wrong place.

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Matt's two friends are plotting the rest of the route down, unaware,

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at this point, that their mate has made a terrible misjudgement.

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I heard a shout, saying,

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"Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Matt's skied into the crevasse!"

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It's all captured on Matt Donovan's helmet camera.

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I just couldn't believe it. I was, like,

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"No, that is impossible. This is a big, big crevasse."

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Matt has gone. He can't be seen.

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He can't be heard.

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In that heart stopping moment,

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his friends know they may never see him again.

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'Attention! Attention!'

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Later, the desperate battle to make contact with Matt.

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And the frantic efforts to try and reach him.

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When you're actually in that situation,

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and there's no-one else around,

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it gets...very, very scary, very, very quickly.

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When a car is seen weaving in and out of traffic, police give chase.

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But, in this case,

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it's not the driver who's about to have a lucky escape.

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It's late evening on one of the major motorway routes

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along the south coast.

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A car is being driven erratically, cutting other drivers,

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and changing lanes.

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The driver doesn't know it's all being recorded on the camera

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of an unmarked police car.

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I was, sort of, weaving, in and out.

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But the police officers have no idea of the dramatic events

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unfolding in the vehicle.

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Sergeant Simon Goss has been in the force 27 years.

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He's in charge of a team of eight traffic cops,

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on the lookout for and recording criminals on the road.

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But, one day, in the middle of June, he and a number of colleagues

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are on their way home from a police operation in unmarked vehicles,

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and one of their in-car cameras is recording.

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It captures the start of probably the most unexpected

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sequence of events he's ever experienced in his career.

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Travelling at 60mph, that's the speed limit for that

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part of the motorway, just heading back to base after an 11 hour shift.

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We're aware of this black car that undertakes us,

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clearly driving a lot faster than 60mph.

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The vehicle accelerates ahead of us, weaving in and out of traffic,

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and I think the consensus of opinion of us all

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was that the vehicle had just been stolen and we needed to stop it.

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But this car isn't stolen.

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It's just in a hurry to make an extremely important delivery.

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Behind the wheel is Colin, a devoted dad, and grandad,

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who's rushing his heavily pregnant daughter to hospital.

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I was, sort of, weaving in and out.

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And, unbeknownst to me, undertook four unmarked police cars.

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My dad's doing high speed down the motorway...

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Obviously, we see the blue flashing lights.

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Then Tiff said, "My waters have gone."

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So I started going a little bit faster.

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Surprisingly, the vehicle continues to speed, even accelerates.

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I didn't stop. It was in my head to get Tiff to the hospital.

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But, as Colin hits top gear,

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he soon realises Tiffany isn't going to make it that far.

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Half of her head come out.

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I had no choice but to pull over.

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The vehicle stops on a very narrow bit of hard shoulder

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and we basically surround the vehicle with our unmarked cars.

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I leapt out of my driver's door,

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as all the police got out of their car.

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I got out of the police vehicle, run to the passenger side,

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thinking I'm going to make an arrest.

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And I just said, "My daughter's having a baby."

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I opened the passenger door, got Tiffany's legs turned,

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out came baby.

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He's got Lola's head in his hands,

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and Lola's literally being born in front of us.

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Which is a massive shock to us all.

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And it's just as much of a shock for Tiffany.

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It's been a speedy birth in more ways than one.

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My first was 27 hours.

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She was 19 minutes.

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No-one expects your dad to deliver their baby, do they?

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It was quite...embarrassing.

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Just had to do what he had to do, I suppose, bless him.

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Mother and baby finally make it to hospital

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and both are in good health.

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-Lola is well-prepared for a life in the fast lane.

-There, look.

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The lady that was registering her...

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..said, "Is this the M275 baby?" I said, "Yes."

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And that's what they've written on her birth certificate.

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Born - M275 on the way to Queen Alexandra Hospital.

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Grand Prix grandad Colin makes a rapid apology

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for his high-speed antics.

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I said, "Look, guys, I'm really sorry for driving like a lunatic."

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And they were, afterwards, they were really good.

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I think he was just as shocked as we were that he got

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so surrounded by four unmarked cars.

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He was desperate to try and get Tiffany to hospital.

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But he was doing his best in the circumstances.

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Simon, however, feels he probably should have been better prepared.

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Coincidently, my wife is a midwife.

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I did think at the time maybe I should have listened to a few

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more stories as she told me about delivering babies,

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but, luckily, Lola was fine, Mum was fine.

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Coming up, a terrifying car fire, and it seems there's no escape.

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A family is trapped inside their burning vehicle,

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but they're surrounded by lions.

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Do they flee, or sit tight in choking smoke?

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I saw flames coming from the front of the vehicle.

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I could see the panic on the children's faces.

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And, in the Alps, Matt's friends battle to reach him

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trapped in a bottomless crevasse.

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I kind of had a thought, you know, I was going to be buried.

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This is going to be like being in an avalanche,

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not going to be able to move, not going to be able to breathe.

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This footage, filmed on a mobile phone, shows a line of traffic.

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And, at the back, one of the cars is burning out of control.

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Inside, a mum and her two young children are suddenly facing

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a terrifying, life-threatening decision.

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This is Longleat Safari Park,

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and their car is in the middle of the lion enclosure.

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It's getting too dangerous to stay in their burning vehicle,

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but it's also too dangerous to get out

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because the lions are surrounding the car.

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It's probably most people's worst nightmare.

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The lions are actually watching us.

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Suddenly, fear gives way to panic.

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One of the children does something drastic -

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opens the door and tries to make a run for it.

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My son opened the door and ran out of the car.

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It's the Easter holidays, and Helen Clemens and her two children,

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12-year-old Charlie and her nine-year-old brother,

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George, are on a family day out.

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The first thing you do, you see the lemurs

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and then you can go into the zebras and the giraffes.

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Then there's the monkeys.

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And then you go on to the big cats.

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You see the tigers first, which we did,

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and they were quite close to the road.

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But Longleat Safari Park is most famous for its lions,

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36 in total, and its Park Ranger Andy Hayton's job

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to keep an eye on them.

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They're probably more dangerous than a wild lion

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because they have no natural fear of us.

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It's a big unpredictable carnivore

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that makes a living out of killing things and eating it,

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so you never, ever, ever get complacent with them.

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For Helen and the kids, the lions are definitely the main attraction,

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and they're excited as they enter the big cat enclosure.

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This Easter weekend,

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the good weather has brought visitors in their droves,

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all keen to get close up to the pride prowling its territory

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and recording their day on their cameras and phones.

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Everyone likes to look at all the animals

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and they forget there's a lot of people behind you,

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so that's why there was a lot of, you know, stopping and starting.

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Helen, Charlie and George are already well inside the enclosure

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when they realise something's not right with their people carrier.

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There was steam coming from the bonnet.

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When you go into any enclosure it says,

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"Please stay in your vehicle.

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"In the case of an emergency, please sound your horn."

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She reassures the children, but now Helen is becoming frightened.

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She decides to press the horn.

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HORN BLARES

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But the sudden noise attracts the attention

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of a large pride of lions nearby.

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One of the rangers on look out sees they're in trouble

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and radios Andy Hayton.

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I could hear panic in her voice.

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She told me that there was smoke

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coming from underneath the car bonnet.

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Sometimes you think, smoke, steam -

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maybe it's a radiator hose burst or something.

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But it isn't steam, as they're about to find out.

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It started getting darker and it started to turn brown,

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and then suddenly it was turning black.

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And, because it was at the front of the vehicle,

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near the windscreen, it was coming in towards us through the vents,

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and I said, "That isn't steam, that's smoke."

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Helen is now terrified they'll be overcome by the deadly fumes.

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She has no choice but to open the car window,

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hoping the lions won't come any closer.

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Andy's still 200 yards away and racing towards the enclosure.

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He can see time is running out for the family.

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I knew I had to get people out of the car.

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Then, suddenly, the family's situation gets much worse.

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At that point I saw flames coming from the front of the vehicle.

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I could see the panic on the children's faces.

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Both Charlie and George were in tears.

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It's too much for nine-year-old George.

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Overcome with fear, he suddenly jumps out of the car.

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My son opened the door and ran out of the car.

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I was really, really scared.

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I saw the lions, but I just didn't know what to do.

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I thought if I could run to the entrance bit,

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but it's too far away, so then I just thought, I'll just...

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..leg it.

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I was calling him back,

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I said, "You've got to come back to the car."

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I could see the puzzled look on his face, you know,

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do I stay in the car? Do I get back in the car?

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Andy arrives at Helen's blazing car

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and manoeuvres his 4x4 tight up alongside.

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I said to Helen, "I'm going to have to just get you into my truck,

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"and what I want you all to do is just jump over the driver's seat."

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But young George, gripped with panic,

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heads to the wrong side of Andy's car and into the path of the lions.

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I did have to manhandle George in,

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caught him by the scruff of the neck and fired him through the door.

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Andy's reached them just in time.

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Tourist photos show the front of the car is now well alight.

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Just one minute more and the whole family would have been forced

0:19:380:19:42

to leap out and into the enclosure with the lions.

0:19:420:19:45

Helen captures the moment on her own mobile phone.

0:19:450:19:49

With the family safe, the rangers round-up the animals.

0:19:490:19:52

Now the locals fire service can take over.

0:19:520:19:55

The actual car was on fire.

0:19:550:19:56

It was well alight from end to end and there were flames

0:19:560:19:59

10 or 15 feet in the air, quite a bit of smoke being produced.

0:19:590:20:02

I directed the crews to attack the fire.

0:20:020:20:04

Whilst they were doing that I made my way to the nearest ranger

0:20:040:20:07

just to confirm... I think my words were something like

0:20:070:20:10

"Could you confirm to me that all of the cats are away?"

0:20:100:20:13

I think the response was something like,

0:20:130:20:15

"Yes, I can assure you they've all gone to bed."

0:20:150:20:17

It's been a terrifying experience for Helen, Charlie and George.

0:20:170:20:21

Look, there's the ranger, and we're in that car, so we've left it.

0:20:210:20:25

Can you see how we've let it?

0:20:250:20:27

Wow, look, that's where the lions were.

0:20:270:20:29

They were really, really close. They are watching us.

0:20:290:20:33

They'll never forget the family outing

0:20:330:20:36

that became a trip, literally, into the lion's den.

0:20:360:20:40

Back in Chamonix, a day's skiing has taken a terrifying turn

0:20:480:20:51

for three friends after one of them missed judges the track

0:20:510:20:55

and disappears into a bottomless crack in the ice.

0:20:550:20:58

The moment is recorded on one skier's helmet camera.

0:21:030:21:06

Now the two men are gripped with fear.

0:21:070:21:11

Matt!

0:21:110:21:13

I heard a shout to saying, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

0:21:130:21:15

"Matt skied into the crevasse!"

0:21:150:21:17

I skated back up the snow bridge, obviously being very careful

0:21:170:21:23

because snow bridges are not the most stable things

0:21:230:21:26

at the best of times, and started peering into the crevasse,

0:21:260:21:29

looking to see exactly what had happened.

0:21:290:21:32

They know their friend is in desperate trouble.

0:21:320:21:34

He might even have lost his life.

0:21:340:21:36

But Matt is alive

0:21:360:21:38

and all too conscious of what's happening to him.

0:21:380:21:41

I was falling. That was the most terrifying thing.

0:21:430:21:46

And I was banging off the sides,

0:21:480:21:50

and I didn't know how much snow was coming with me,

0:21:500:21:52

I kind of had a thought, you know, that I was going to be buried.

0:21:520:21:55

This is going to be like being in an avalanche,

0:21:550:21:58

not going to be able to move, not going to be able to breathe.

0:21:580:22:01

Miraculously, Matt comes to a halt on a small ledge of snow

0:22:010:22:04

60 feet from the surface.

0:22:040:22:06

I stopped falling at the bottom,

0:22:070:22:10

and there was very little snow piled up around me.

0:22:100:22:13

I was pretty much just standing there trying to work out what happened.

0:22:130:22:17

I was at the bottom of this huge hole just...

0:22:170:22:21

"What happened? Where am I now?"

0:22:210:22:23

Looking up, he can just see a patch of blue sky.

0:22:240:22:28

Looking down, the crack just keeps on going.

0:22:280:22:31

All I could see was two walls either side of me of ice.

0:22:330:22:37

It was deafeningly silent. It was terrifying.

0:22:370:22:40

I wasn't optimistic. I thought it was game over.

0:22:410:22:44

The fact that Matt actually skied down into the crevasse

0:22:440:22:47

has been crucial - it's kept him upright.

0:22:470:22:50

If he'd tried to stop he could have plunged in headfirst.

0:22:500:22:54

I'm doing this pat-down of my body trying to work out...

0:22:560:23:00

I should be broken in half, something should be broken,

0:23:000:23:03

there should be blood. This isn't normal.

0:23:030:23:06

But, for some reason, I was all OK.

0:23:060:23:08

His friends have no idea if he's dead or alive.

0:23:080:23:12

The scary part right now is that I was

0:23:130:23:15

shouting and shouting and shouting,

0:23:150:23:18

whilst balanced, with my skis on, on a snow bridge,

0:23:180:23:21

basically, not knowing what the outcome was going to be.

0:23:210:23:25

So I was just shouting, "Matt, Matt, Matt!

0:23:250:23:27

"Matt, Matt, Matt! Answer me, answer me, Matt!

0:23:270:23:30

"Are you OK? Are you OK? Are you OK?"

0:23:300:23:32

I started shouting and shouting and shouting,

0:23:330:23:36

and I could sense that it wasn't travelling very far,

0:23:360:23:39

cos the sound wasn't echoing, it was just dying.

0:23:390:23:42

Rick has a desperate idea.

0:23:440:23:45

In vain hope, he tries ringing Matt's mobile phone.

0:23:450:23:48

Then my phone rang. I was thinking, "This'll be my mum."

0:23:500:23:53

Unbelievably, the idea works.

0:23:540:23:56

A jubilant Rick signals that he's made contact.

0:23:560:23:59

We talked through the situation very briefly.

0:24:010:24:04

Just to arrange, OK, they're getting a rope to me.

0:24:040:24:07

They're getting an ice screw down

0:24:070:24:09

to me on the end of the rope for a weight.

0:24:090:24:11

We lowered down an ice screw to him

0:24:110:24:13

so that he could clip into his harness,

0:24:130:24:15

secure himself to the crevasse wall inside the glacier

0:24:150:24:18

and make himself safe while we decided what we needed to do.

0:24:180:24:21

but Matt knows there's also danger

0:24:230:24:25

from the ridge his friends are standing on above him.

0:24:250:24:28

I was still very aware that where Rick was standing to shout at me

0:24:290:24:33

was actually on a snow bridge, so I was still quite aware that

0:24:330:24:36

I'm not completely out of danger.

0:24:360:24:38

There's still a risk that the roof could come down on me,

0:24:380:24:41

the small bridge he's standing on, the cornice, could come down on me.

0:24:410:24:45

There was still a lot of fear.

0:24:450:24:46

Matt's friends call helicopter rescue,

0:24:480:24:50

only to find it's not available.

0:24:500:24:53

All we could do then was try and attempt a crevasse rescue.

0:24:530:24:58

When you're actually in that situation,

0:24:580:25:01

a friend of yours is down there and there's no-one else around,

0:25:010:25:06

it gets very, very scary, very, very quickly.

0:25:060:25:09

Rick and Matt secure their friend to a rope.

0:25:090:25:13

He won't fall any further.

0:25:130:25:15

But getting him out is an altogether different problem.

0:25:150:25:19

We realised we probably did not have enough equipment

0:25:190:25:23

for the two of us to get him out, and it would have been a struggle,

0:25:230:25:27

the two of us, to set up a system that would get him out.

0:25:270:25:31

Fortunately, two English guys came down,

0:25:310:25:35

one of them have very, very, very accomplished mountaineer

0:25:350:25:38

who, although, by his own admission,

0:25:380:25:40

had never done a crevasse rescue before,

0:25:400:25:42

knew the basic principles of setting up a pulley system

0:25:420:25:46

to get Matt out of the crevasse.

0:25:460:25:48

Down in the crevasse, Matt is doing all he can to keep calm.

0:25:480:25:53

Some time passed and I'm just sitting there

0:25:530:25:57

with my skis in my backpack and my backpack on,

0:25:570:26:01

hanging by a screw, on a rope, in a hole...

0:26:010:26:04

So I got my camera out.

0:26:050:26:07

I took the selfie and everything, just to, eh...

0:26:080:26:11

I don't know, I was just trying to not panic.

0:26:110:26:13

Between them, the four guys on the surface have set up the pulley.

0:26:170:26:21

Down below, Matt suddenly feels a tug on the rope.

0:26:210:26:24

As soon as they pulled, there was this hugely satisfying

0:26:260:26:30

wrench on the rope that just lifted me up,

0:26:300:26:33

and I've never felt happier to be wrenched up

0:26:330:26:36

by a rope before in my life.

0:26:360:26:38

I just remember sitting there thinking,

0:26:380:26:41

"I'm now going away from the crevasse."

0:26:410:26:43

I knew they just had to keep pulling and pulling and pulling,

0:26:430:26:46

and every little bit I was going up.

0:26:460:26:48

After about half an hour of backbreaking work,

0:26:510:26:54

the four of us finally, finally, finally

0:26:540:26:56

saw Matt's face coming above the lip of the crevasse,

0:26:560:27:00

coming through the snow bridge, and we dragged him out.

0:27:000:27:05

The helmet camera cuts out just before Matt reaches the surface,

0:27:050:27:09

but he's safe.

0:27:090:27:11

The friends record the moment with a photograph.

0:27:110:27:14

Very emotional moment for all of us,

0:27:140:27:16

you know, two complete strangers who'd helped us out

0:27:160:27:19

and the three of us who are good friends.

0:27:190:27:21

I think everyone shed a bit of a tear.

0:27:210:27:23

I've never felt so happy.

0:27:230:27:25

Climbing out the side of this hole,

0:27:250:27:26

just come over the side of the crevasse and there's these

0:27:260:27:29

two strange guys I've never seen before, my two good buddies -

0:27:290:27:33

it was the first time I really felt

0:27:330:27:35

that full flood of adrenaline and emotion.

0:27:350:27:39

Rick came up, huge hug.

0:27:390:27:41

Probably the most emotional hug I've had with Rick,

0:27:410:27:43

and Matt the same.

0:27:430:27:45

The two guys, we just had this real hug, you know.

0:27:450:27:48

"We nearly watched you die. You're now safe."

0:27:490:27:53

That's nice, it's a good feeling.

0:27:530:27:55

That's it for today. Join us next time for more stories

0:27:560:27:59

from people about the day they had a close call.

0:27:590:28:01

A young man disappears down a huge crack in the ice thousands of feet up a mountain. It's all captured on his friend's helmet camera.

When a family car catches fire at a safari park, there is no way out - the car is inside the lion enclosure.