Veteran Joel Snarr receives Queen's Gallantry Medal for saving family in Abergavenny plane crash

  • Watch the moment Joel Snarr receives honour at Windsor Castle

A veteran who risked his life to save a family from a burning plane has received a Queen's Gallantry Medal for his heroism.

Joel Snarr received the honour at a Windsor Castle ceremony hosted by the Princess Royal on Wednesday (February 10).

Mr Snarr said the incident was a turning point for his own mental health.

In May 2019, the 38-year-old was driving down the A40 near Abergavenny in south Wales when an aircraft hit overhead power lines and crashed into the busy road.

Along with another motorist, Daniel Nicholson, Mr Snarr stopped his car and pulled three people from the wreckage less than a minute before it became engulfed in flames.

The Blackpool-born veteran attended the ceremony with his wife, Sarah. Credit: PA Images

Mr Snarr served in the armed forces from 2005, including three tours in Afghanistan and deployments in Iraq and Northern Ireland.

He told the PA news agency that saving a family from the plane was a "redeeming" point in his life after he was discharged from the army while suffering from post traumatic stress disorder in 2018.

He said: "When I was talking to Princess Anne, we got into the topic of how it was quite redeeming for myself.

"I had just got to the end of a messy clinical discharge from the army, for post traumatic stress.

"It's not anything I ever wanted, I never wanted to leave the army that way, I felt useless for a long time, I was in a very bad place."

Remembering the events of that day in May 2019, Mr Snarr said: "Before I even knew it, I had hold of the pilot and I felt rejuvenated that I got to be useful again.

"It was a test.

"It was a key moment in my life where I had felt useless and awful, and wondering whether I was capable of anything again.

"The rescue showed that I was, it was a redeeming day."

The three passengers on board the plane at the time sustained minor injuries. Credit: Jo Polcock

Mr Snarr said it was his army background and training that helped him remain calm. He praised his co-rescuer, Mr Nicholson, for reacting in the same way.

When asked how close a call it had been for himself and the family, he said: "It was a closer call for them than it was for me, I'll tell you that.

"If the response had been 60 seconds later... it didn't take long for the fire to cook off the fire extinguisher and things like that, it was getting so hot inside the plane.

"It melted the central reservation barrier, that had to be replaced.

"It got so hot that your feet could feel it 20, 30 metres away.

"Speed was of the essence."

Mr Snarr, who was the final person to receive their royal honour on Wednesday, said he enjoyed being the last to stand for the national anthem alongside Anne.

"It was a particularly excellent touch to be ex-services and be the last standing for the national anthem with Princess Anne, which apparently doesn't happen very often," he said.

Mr Snarr added that along with Mr Nicholson, he had been invited by the First Minister Mark to watch the Wales vs Ireland Six Nations game from the Government box, in recognition of their bravery.