Bristol tanker driver wins Florida trip for fire heroics

A Bristol-based HGV tanker driver who rescued a woman from a burning building has won a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Florida for his heroics.

Neil Luton, who works for waste management specialist CSG, has jetted to USA after being awarded the prize on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway last weekend as part of the show’s Place on the Plane scheme.

The competition on the popular ITV show rewards 200 heroes and community stalwarts by flying them to Florida for its season finale, which takes place this Saturday at the Orlando Universal Resort.

People who get a ticket are also able to visit the resort and get access to a British Airways exclusive lounge at the airport.

Neil, 40, earned his Place on the Plane for helping to save a woman in a dramatic house fire at Greenlands in Heytesbury last year.

He was dubbed a “real-life superhero” by presenter Ant McPartlin as he received his golden envelope on live TV in front of six million viewers.

Neil said: “I was having a great time and cheering along as the Place on the Plane winners were being announced. I couldn’t believe it when Ant stopped in front of me and presented me with the last ticket of the series.

“It’s an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The rescue drama unfolded in February 2022 when Neil spotted smoke coming from the roof of Krishnakali Sinha’s home.

Neil tried to enter the property by the front door but was beaten back by smoke and flames.

Undeterred, he went to the back garden, stood on a table, made contact with Krishnakali, 62 at the time, and coaxed her out of the window and onto the roof of a single storey extension.

A neighbour provided a ladder and Neil guided her to the edge of the roof before grabbing her feet and helping her climb down to safety, wearing just her dressing gown and slippers. Her husband Mukul Kumar was downstairs when the fire started and had already managed to escape.

At the height of the fire, 35 firefighters battled the blaze.

Neil was only at the location as he had cleared a septic tank for client Selwood Housing earlier that day and wanted to double-check he had secured the lid on the tank.

Neil said: “I don’t think of myself as being a hero. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and acted instinctively. I’ve never looked for praise or prizes, but I am proud of what I did to help.”

Krishnakali said Neil was “a godsend” and that she would not have escaped without him.

Neil was awarded a Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation and a Bronze Medal from the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire for his actions – as well as Employee of the Month at CSG.

David Cashmore, CSG Group Operations Manager, said: “We are all immensely proud of Neil and how he put his own safety on the line to rescue Krishnakali. He’s a fantastic member of the team and we’re delighted that he can enjoy this amazing trip to Florida.”

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