Delivery driver who saved stranger from burning lorry named Scotland’s Champion

He crawled into the burning cab of a crashed lorry, risking his own life to save the life of a stranger trapped inside.

Ignoring raging flames and thick smoke, Lee Metcalf hauled the driver to safety – an extraordinary act of bravery that saw him last night named our overall Scotland’s Champion of 2021.

The 46-year-old’s award was just one of the highlights of a breathtaking evening that also saw Liverpool and Scotland footballer Andy Robertson surprise our trio of Little Champions with an incredible trip to Lapland to meet Santa.

There was a standing ovation for delivery driver Lee, from Edinburgh, who stopped his van and ran across six lanes of motorway after seeing a lorry crash and burst into flames on the opposite carriageway.

The unassuming dad, stunned by the reactions at last night’s awards ceremony, said: “I wouldn’t exactly call myself a hero, I just did what I thought was right. I’d like to think that if I got into that situation then someone would be there to do the same for me.”

Lee was heading along the M74 near Abington, Lanarkshire, on March 22 when he spotted the vehicle on fire.

The livestock truck had flipped over, slid along the road and burst into flames – trapping the driver inside the cab, which was alight and only minutes away from exploding.

Lee was heading along the M74 near Abington, Lanarkshire, on March 22 when he spotted the vehicle on fire

Lee pulled on to the hard shoulder, dodged traffic crossing six lanes and climbed on to the cab of the toppled vehicle to pull the stricken driver through the door.

Lee, who was also named Outstanding Bravery Champion, said: “I just had to act quickly the minute I saw what was going on. I didn’t think twice. It was a no-brainer. I was there and had to help.

“All I remember thinking in the moment was, ‘Oh God, I just have to get him out quick.’ The lorry was already on fire and it was going to explode.

“It was really a right-place-at-the-right-time moment and I am so relieved I got there in time. But the main thing is that he’s okay now.”

It was an emotional climax to our Scotland’s Champions awards, which brings together two long-standing campaigns from the Sunday Mail and Daily Record – the Great Scot Awards and Our Heroes.

One of the biggest cheers of the night went to our Little Champions, who received a special video message from Andy Robertson, who was so moved by their bravery that he wanted to do something extra special for them.

To gasps of delight from the audience, the footballer said: “Congratulations Jack, Mila and Zac – you are all super brave and really are life’s littlechampions. I want to share a big surprise with you all.

“To celebrate your bravery, AR 26 charity and our great friends at Stewart Travel are taking you all to Lapland to meet another great friend of mine – Santa. Please make sure I’m on the nice list and have the best time ever.”

The courage shown by leukaemia battler Mila Sneddon, five, Jack Irvine, nine, who helped save his dad’s life after a bad fall, and Zac Gunn, three, who needs a life-saving lung transplant, moved many to tears.

Along with our title sponsor Utilita, we saluted ordinary Scots doing extraordinary things as well as stars from the worlds of sport, entertainment and music.

But the night at Glasgow’s DoubleTree by Hilton hotel belonged to the unsung heroes, whose selfless work was described as “truly inspirational” by our judges, led by former first minister Lord Jack McConnell.

Community Champion Boots & Beards and Community Project of the Year Jean’s Bothy received a warm reception when they took to the stage at our glittering ceremony hosted by TV favourite Jackie Bird and stand-up comedian Des Clarke.

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer John Miller, 52, was hailed our Military and Emergency Services Champion for his bravery in speaking out about the trauma of losing his young son and creating Scottish Fire and Rescue’s first formal mental health strategy to train staff to spot signs of depression and PTSD.

Police dog Remo, who had his jaw smashed while tackling a vicious thug with partner PC Paul O’Donnell, was surprised with a special Highly Commended Award in the same category.

Palliative care nurse Gillian McNab, 51, who refuses to let her Huntington’s disease diagnosis get her down and has raised more than £14,200 for charity through skydiving, wing-walking and a host of other adventures, was named our first Caring Champion.

Incredible mums Jennifer Gill, 36, and Tanya Ross, 41, who have raised £1million in memory of their sons Oliver and Harris, scooped the Making a Difference Award, voted for by thousands of our readers.

Delivery driver who saved stranger from burning lorry named Scotland’s Champion
Jackie Bird with Lee Metcalf

Sea shanty singing sensation Nathan Evans was crowned Entertainment Champion, while big-hearted music legend and Band Aid founder Midge Ure, 68, got a deafening round of applause when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from fellow philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter.

The undisputed light-welterweight champion of the world – The Tartan Tornado, Josh Taylor, 30 – was named our Sporting Champion of 2021.

More than 300 guests, including famous faces from sport and showbiz, joined in as we saluted our heroes. Wrestler Jack Jester,
STV newsreader Kelly-Ann Woodland, actor Iain Robertson and the cast of River City were among the stars who attended.

Singer Kyle Falconer, founder of Mercury Prize-nominated band The View, raised the roof with a performance of songs from his new album No Love Songs For Laura, while radio star and Sunday Mail columnist Garry Spence put on a disco at the after-party.

Sunday Mail editor Lorna Hughes said: “Extraordinary people rarely think they have done anything out of the ordinary. They don’t seek attention, yet what they do changes and transforms the lives of others – whether that’s with one simple act or in a lifetime’s work.

“The courage, dedication and sheer determination of these unsung heroes make them Scotland’s Champions.”

Bill Bullen, CEO of Utilita Energy, said: “If ever there’s been a time when we needed unsung heroes, it’s now.”

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