Heroic Royal Navy sailor charges into exploded house in Portsmouth to rescue injured mum and son

A HEROIC Royal Navy sailor who charged into a flaming house that exploded to rescue a mother and her son has said: ‘I just did what needed to be done and I didn’t give it a second thought.’

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 8:59 am

Courageous Jon Thornber leapt into action after hearing the home of his neighbours in Nelson Avenue explode on Friday afternoon.

The 41-year-old Petty Officer, who is based at HMS Collingwood, dashed across with his partner Gemma to help.

Arriving at the scene, he could see flames already engulfing the terraced property, which had been obliterated by a gas explosion.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Courageous Petty Officer Jon Thornber, 41, leapt into action after hearing the home of his neighbours in Nelson Avenue explode on Friday afternoon. Photo: Keith Woodland

After calling emergency services, Jon then sprinted into the building to search for survivors.

Once in the house, Jon spotted a male in the garden ‘confused and dazed and suffering from burns’.

Debris blocked the front gate and Jon kicked this aside, guiding the man to safety, before noticing an elderly woman trapped in the hallway.

The windows, doors and frames had all been blown out by the blast and this, together with her injuries, meant she was unable to escape the flames.

Petty Officer Jon Thornber, pictured at his base at HMS Collingwood, in Fareham. Photo: Keith Woodland

Shouting reassurance and with no thought of his own safety, Jon entered the crumbling house, lifted her onto his shoulder and ran back through the debris and away from the home.

Looking back, he could then see flames billowing out of the door where seconds before the woman had been standing.

Jon said: ‘I just did what needed to be done and I didn’t give it a second thought at the time.’

Read More

Read More
Demolition crews begin work at site of Portsmouth home destroyed by gas explosio...
Petty Officer Jon Thornber, who lives in Portsmouth, rushed into the burning building and dragged two injured people out to safety. Photo: Keith Woodland

Within minutes, firefighters, police and paramedics flooded the area to offer aid and combat the fire.

Jon was full of praise for the emergency services, who he described as the ‘real heroes who do this every day’.

He added: ‘I also want to thank the neighbours who fetched blankets for the couple and buckets of water to cool their burns.

‘When the fire service arrived, they asked me to stay with a hose and cool the burns down whilst we waited for the ambulance service.

Flames coming from a property in Nelson Avenue, North End, after an explosion. Picture: Paige Emery

‘During this time, I used my Royal Navy training to keep the victims calm, coherent and as comfortable as possible and tried to get as much information from them to hand over to the ambulance service.’

The two occupants suffered serious injuries and are currently being treated at the Odstock regional centre for burns, plastic and reconstructive surgery is based at Salisbury District Hospital.

Since the incident, the police service have contacted Jon with a view to nominating him for a community bravery award and the fire service have invited him, Gemma and Jon’s children to the station so they can thank him personally.

However, modest Jon, originally from Halifax in Yorkshire, said: ‘Since the incident I have had a number of accolades and praise but I just have a massive passion for helping people.

‘In my job, it’s Royal Navy officer candidates, students and colleagues but I feel that saving someone’s life is the ultimate in helping someone, although I wish this had never happened or wish this to happen again.

Paramedics attending to a casualty from the explosion. Picture: Mike Cooter (221021)

‘I just want to thank my parents, Michael and Sandra, for the person they brought me up me to be, the Royal Navy for the training they have given me, my partner for reacting so quickly and being right by my side for the whole 58 minutes we were involved in the incident, the neighbours that helped as much as they could and lastly the amazing emergency services without whom we would have lost a lot more properties and potentially more lives.’

Jon is currently nearing the end of his naval career after 22 years’ service where he served on ships including HMS St Albans, HMS Gloucester and HMS Tyne, shore establishments and on deployment to over 30 different countries.

Reflecting on his latest service to others, Jon said: ‘My hope is to be reunited with the couple once they have recovered to give them my best wishes and hopes for a full and speedy recovery.’

- Details of career opportunities within the Royal Navy are available online at www.royalnavy.mod.uk/careers or by calling the recruitment line on 03456 00 53 02

Looking for the latest Royal Navy updates from Portsmouth? Join our new Royal Navy news Facebook group to keep up to date.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

You can subscribe here for unlimited access to our online coverage, including Pompey, with 70 per cent fewer adverts for less than 20p a day.

Smoke from the home in Nelson Avenue filled the street. Picture: Mike Cooter (221021)