A FIREFIGHTER has been reunited with the woman who rescued him from the Bradford City fire disaster when he was just six years old.
Jonny Earl, now 38, has met up with Karen Harper for the first time in 32 years following an appeal on her Facebook page on the anniversary of the fire at Valley Parade.
On the day of the disaster, May 11, 1985, Karen, then 20, grabbed Jonny, then six, who was in tears near the pitch after losing his trainer and becoming separated from his family members when the fire developed.
It was the first football match for Jonny, who now works as a station manager at West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service’s headquarters in Birkenshaw, and they were sat three rows from the back of the main stand, near to the Kop.
He attended the game against Lincoln City with his father, brother and grandfather, all called David, and his other grandfather Fred.
His father was the first person to spot the fire and urged his two sons, and Jonny’s grandfathers, to go on to the pitch.
But Jonny became separated from his family as the fire took hold and climbed over the rows of seats before meeting a concrete wall at the bottom.
A stranger threw him over the concrete barrier onto the pitch.
This was when he was spotted by Karen, of Clayton Heights, who had arrived at the ground after kick off after making an impulsive decision to take a break from her GCSE Maths revision for an exam at college a few days later.
She picked him up, and took him out of the stadium and asked him ‘where does your father park?’
He told her his father was parked on Queens Road.
But when they were walking down Midland Road a group of men, who were the rest of his family, came towards her and Jonny. All six of them were not injured in the fire.
They were all reunited and Karen, now 52, said: “It was just like a miracle. They grabbed him and grabbed me and that was the last time I saw him.”
They had not seen each other since the fateful day of the fire until a meeting in Saltaire on Sunday, May 14.
Both of them are going to watch their team at tomorrow’s League One Play-off Final against Millwall at Wembley.
Jonny said: “I don’t have much recollection of the fire on the day.
“As I got thrown over I lost one of my brand new trainers my mum had bought me. I was then trying to get back in to get my father.
“I remember a lady grabbing me and saying, ‘what are you doing?’
“I said ‘my mum will kill me if I go home without both of my trainers’ and I remember her saying ‘your mum won’t care about your trainers.’
“I must have told her my dad worked at the police station in Midland Road where it meets Queens Road.”
Father-of-two Jonny also spoke of his surprise at seeing Karen’s Facebook post 32 years later.
He added: “I have often wondered who the person was who helped me. I always wanted to thank her.
“A mutual friend of me and my wife Helen had shared the Facebook post, so I commented on it saying ‘search over, it’s me’, then I sent her a private message and we quickly met up.”
Karen, a mother of two and a grandmother of one, said: “I was stunned when he got in touch. I could not believe it. I had thought about him all of these years. I have told the story of what happened that day many times and a lot of happy tears have been shed over the years. I just wanted to put it on my Facebook page to share the story.
“It has stayed with me for so long. We were one of the last to leave the stadium. It was eerie coming out. It is a great result and lovely to hear from him. It never occurred to me that he would become a firefighter, it’s just great.
“What a fantastic time to get in touch with the final tomorrow.”
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