Horrified motorists who saw Prince Philip’s car ‘somersaulting’ across the road were the first to help him – before his police protection officers arrived.
The shellshocked duke’s legs were trapped in his overturned Land Rover, while the other car in the collision was smouldering and looked ready to explode.
Yet retired barrister Roy Warne and grandfather Glenn Watson bravely rushed to help.
Yesterday Mr Watson revealed how he arrived a minute after the smash and ‘two police protection officers arrived just after me’.
He said: ‘He was shaking and just said, “get me out”. We managed to pull Philip out of the sunroof. He was active, and had been trying to free himself but he couldn’t free his leg at first.’
Najarool Islam (left) had to swerve at the last minute to avoid being hit by Philip’s careering 4×4. His colleague Jalshad Ali (right), 56, said: ‘I could see the Land Rover rolling’
Another driver, Najarool Islam, had to swerve at the last minute to avoid being hit by Philip’s careering 4×4. When he approached the stricken Land Rover Freelander, he saw the duke ‘hanging from his seat’ and calling out, “my leg is trapped”. The accident happened around 2.45pm on the edge of the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.
The winter sun had been low in the sky as the duke, driving alone, pulled up at a T-junction. With his police protection officers apparently following some distance behind, Philip paused at the give-way sign to the busy A149, where cars on the narrow trunk road can whizz past at up to 60mph.
Facing west, with the full glare of the sun shining directly into his face, the 97-year-old duke may have mistimed his exit with drastic consequences. Possibly dazzled by sunlight, he pulled onto the A-road – likely turning right – unaware of the blue Kia travelling south until it was too late.
According to one eyewitness, the Kia, driven by a 28-year-old mother whose baby was in the back, ‘T-boned’ the duke’s car – in other words, hit it side-on.
There is no suggestion the smaller vehicle was speeding but the impact was enough to send the royal’s two-tonne Freelander screeching across the carriageway, spinning 180 degrees before flipping onto its roof and coming to rest on its offside.
The Kia ended up in a hedge with smoke pouring from the engine.
Eyewitness Mr Warne said he was driving home when he saw a Land Rover exit the junction before a ‘huge collision’. ‘I saw it careering, tumbling across the A149, somersaulting across the road,’ he said. ‘It was turning on its side over and over. It was frightening to see a powerful car rolling like that.
‘It would take a massive force [to knock it over].’ As it careered across to the northbound carriageway, the duke’s car narrowly avoided hitting a car driven by Mr Islam, 47, who managed to swerve sharply to avoid it. His colleague Jalshad Ali, 56, said: ‘I could see the Land Rover rolling. I was worried we were going to hit them. My colleague managed to swerve out of the way on to the other side of the carriageway and we stopped just beyond the wreckage.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it before and was worried people would be seriously hurt. We stopped and I called police straight away. I believe I was the first person to do so.’ The pair and Mr Warne, who had been driving home to Thornham, near Hunstanton, with his wife Victoria, 72, all pulled over to help, fearing they would find the occupants of both cars dead or seriously injured.
Mr Warne, 75, ran to the smoking Kia, fearing it was about to blow up, and saw a baby boy in the back with two women in the front seats.
He said: ‘There was smoke coming out and I thought it might explode. There was a baby in the back seat, screaming. There were two woman in the car and one of them had a broken arm and they were very shaken.
‘One of them was the mother of the child and she was quite upset.
‘My main concern was their car because there was a lot of smoke around it and I thought the tank might go up.’
Buckingham Palace is under pressure to intervene over Prince Philip’s determination to keep driving despite a horror smash near Sandringham (pictured)
Both airbags had deployed in the Kia and the occupants were in a state of shock, with the mother ‘extremely distressed’ as she tried to check on her nine-month-old boy. Mr Warne got to work with the help of the passenger of another car that had been behind them and had also stopped to help. He said: ‘The passenger in that car actually took the baby in his arms after we freed it from the baby harness. The back windows were down and with the other chap we got the baby out. The mother was obviously very shocked for her child.’
Mr Ali, whose own son Arjed Ali, 29, died in a head-on car crash near Peterborough in 2015, said: ‘The younger lady, who was driving the Kia, was shocked and shaking. She was clearly distressed.
Another man who had stopped was holding the baby which he had put in a blanket. The older woman in the car was on her phone.’ Mr Warne turned to help the elderly man in the black Land Rover, at that point having no idea who he was.
Mr Ali said: ‘The man was inside, hanging from his seat. He was saying, “my leg is trapped”.’
Together with salesman Mr Watson, who had arrived a minute after the crash, they were initially confused. Mr Warne said: ‘When I got to it, I thought at first that I was pulling at the door.
‘But it was actually the windscreen or sunroof – I hadn’t realised the car was on its side. The roof was where the window should have been. It was all through 90 degrees.’
Grandfather Mr Watson added: ‘We tried to break the windscreen and managed to remove half of it, but then we realised [the duke’s] legs were trapped under the steering wheel.
‘Two police protection officers arrived just after me and between the four of us we then managed to pull Philip out of the sunroof.
‘He was active, and had been trying to free himself but he couldn’t free his leg at first. But between pulling him and reaching his legs, we managed to get him out.’
Motoring experts said it was likely police would ask Philip (pictured at the wheel near Balmoral last year) to voluntarily surrender his driver’s licence because of his age
Mr Warne said he managed to get his hands under Philip’s arms and helped ease him out backwards. He said: ‘There was no seatbelt attached [that I saw]. He didn’t seem to be in pain but was obviously very shocked. When his left leg moved, his right leg became free and he was able to turn over. That was the first time I saw his face and that was the first time I realised it was the Duke of Edinburgh.
‘I said something like, “blimey” but it was probably a bit stronger. He was very, very shocked by what had happened. But he was very stoic – he didn’t want a fuss to be made. He’s a very brave man.’ Mr Warne added: ‘I had his blood on my hands. It wasn’t much, and one of the royal people gave me a wipe.’ Mr Watson, 58, of Norwich said: ‘I didn’t realise who he was at first. After we got him out, Roy said to me, “do you know who that is – it’s the Duke of Edinburgh”.
‘He’s a tough old bird, but not as tall as he appears on television. He’s actually rather tiny.’
Mr Watson said that after the four men had extracted the prince from the car, his protection officers started ‘shouting code words into their radios’, before more marked and unmarked police cars arrived.
The duke himself was later seen standing next to two uniformed officers examining the wreckage.
Mr Warne said: ‘The duke spoke to my wife and he asked how everyone was, and whether anyone was hurt. He seemed relieved. I think he went over to the passengers of the other car, to check that everybody was OK. He was much more concerned about other people than he was about himself. He told my wife he was dazzled by the sun, which was very, very low, it was almost at horizon level and it was very strong. I was wearing sunglasses, and where he was coming from he would have been looking straight into the sun.’
He said the duke’s police protection officers ‘were very calm and professional, and comforted people at the scene’, adding: ‘It was just a horrendous crash. I thought the injuries would be extremely serious and it’s lucky nobody was killed.’