A WEST Mercia Police officer has spoken out about the moment he was engulfed in flames after being hit by a flare during serious public disorder outside a European championship football match.
PC Andy Forbes said he was ‘eternally grateful’ not to receive lasting injuries after describing how he was attacked during an incident near Aston Villa’s football ground.
Andy was one of a number of West Mercia officers assisting West Midlands colleagues at a game between Aston Villa and Legia Warsaw in November.
He said he had been clearing bricks, bottles and debris from where the officers were positioned when he was hit by a traffic sign.
PC Forbes said:
“Within a minute or so of that, a flare came in and landed on me.”
“The noise was like a high-octane burning sound; it was getting brighter and pinker.
“I’d got my shield in one hand and I was patting my chest thinking I’ve got to do something about this.
“I was actually quite calm, I was just thinking there’s something wrong here, you’ve got to do something about it, what are you going to do?
“I was joined by six colleagues from the West Midlands Police who were patting me to try to put out the flames.
“I was thrown to the floor and I fought to put the flames out. It was the old stop, drop and roll.
“I was on my front and I was saying to my colleagues ‘is it out, get it out’.
“The whole incident probably lasted 15 to 20 seconds,” he added.
Andy, with experience of 18 years of public order policing, said it was one of the most violent situations he had policed.
He spent the night on the burns unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where he was treated for minor burns, and smoke and heat inhalation.
“It’s nothing lasting, for which I’m eternally grateful for,” he said. “It could have been very different.”
Following the incident, which was the result of around 1,000 away supporters not being given a ticket for the game, 46 Polish fans were arrested according to reports from West Midlands Police.
Recently, criminal charges were dropped against 39 of those arrested while seven defendants will face criminal charges.
In total, five police officers and police dogs and horses were hurt in the clashes.
Three men charged with violent disorder, one charged with a public order offence, and one charged with possession of Class A drugs were due to appear on Friday, January 5 at Birmingham Crown Court.
Another man is due to appear at the same court on 16 January while a defendant is facing proceedings charged with assaulting an emergency worker.
No home fans were arrested and there were no issues from Aston Villa supporters at any point, said West Midlands Police.