2007 & 2008 – Serbia

SERA’s 1st partnership trip was in 2007 to Serbia where we delivered 3 fully equipped fire engines and trained 50 firefighters from the towns who would receive the appliances. This was intended as a once in a lifetime trip on behalf of Blythswood however events on our arrival changed our view.

The day we arrived in Banja Bastia in Serbia, a young girl drowned in the river which ran through the town. The firefighters did not have the equipment to carry out a rescue nor recover the young girl’s body from the river when a rescue was no longer possible.

We felt as a team that this was not acceptable and decided to return in 2008 with 4 additional fully equipped fire engines, an ambulance and importantly water rescue equipment and instructors.

2008 saw SERA deliver another project on behalf of Blythswood Care training another 50 firefighters in what was intended to be our 2nd and final trip.

During an evening meal in the spectacular countryside of Serbia, a 6ft 6” Serbian Firefighter drove 3 hours to find us and tell us his story. His story was about to alter our future plans and lay the pathway for SERA & its partnership with Blythswood Care.

He told us the story and showed us the photographs of a Road Traffic Collision his fire station were called to 3 weeks after we left in 2007. The pictures were of a car with a ‘pancaked’ flattened roof semi submerged in a fast flowing river which was rising at the time due to a discharge of water miles up at the Hydro Dam.

The firefighter thanked us that due to the appliance we gave them, the firefighters were able to reach the car before the water levels rose above the car. He told us that in the car there was a father driving in the front and 3 children trapped in the back of the car. Before we donated the equipment and provided the training, he said that the children would have certainly died and possibly the father as well.

The firefighters in this region did not have access to hydraulic rescue equipment and had to rely on hand tools to prise metal from flesh and remove casualties from RTC’s. This resulted in a very high mortality rate with people either bleeding out within the car or barbaric roadside amputation without anesthetic or surgeons in order to remove the children and father from the car.

As the firefighter broke down in tears, he told me that not only were they able to rescue the father, but managed to rescue the 3 children as well from the back of the car something they have never been able to do up until that point.

This was the reason he drove 3 hours each way just to say thank you and the night we decided that we can’t stop what we were doing.

We were committed at that point to equipping firefighters and 1st responders in each of these countries with the appliances, equipment and skills to save lives in a way and with such efficiency that they had never experienced before.