A POLICE officer who pulled three people from a burning car seconds before it exploded has received a bravery award.

A POLICE officer who pulled three people from a burning car seconds before it exploded has received a bravery award.

Pc Lee Draper was first on the scene when a VW Golf, which had been pursued by police for an hour, crashed near Needingworth and caught fire.

One passenger was thrown clear but three were trapped in the blazing wreckage.

The 16-year-old male driver tried to run away but was wrestled to the ground by Pc Draper.

The firearms officer then dragged the two 16-year-old girls and a woman, 21, from the smouldering wreckage. As he was moving the final casualty, the vehicle exploded, sending debris flying.

But it was days later, when reflecting on the May 2009 incident, before father of two Pc Draper, 39, realised the danger he had been in.

On Monday night, the Pc, who is based in Huntingdon, was presented with a Chief Constable's commendation.

He said: "It is just something instinctive that kicks in. You just think 'Oh, my God, these people need help.' Fortunately, we were there."

Pc Draper and colleague Pc Robin Sutcliffe were on a routine night patrol when they received a call at 1.30am for assistance from officers pursuing a car in the Histon area.

The two men took over the chase at Milton and followed the car as it reached speeds of 140mph along the A428 and A1198 through Papworth Everard. The chase was abandoned when the Golf drove the wrong way along the A14 towards Cambridge, and then resumed at Houghton.

Pc Draper followed the car to Needingworth, where it hurtled across a T-junction and crashed into a field.

He said: "In a split-second you have to mentally prepare yourself for what you might find. The driver had got himself out, leaving the three girls in the car.

"I grabbed hold of him, put him on the floor, then went and got the three girls out of the car one by one.

"The car was upside down and the engine was on fire. I crawled in through the rear passenger window. The girl in the back was on all fours and had become entangled in her seatbelt. She was screaming. I pulled her out of the car and took her to my colleague.

"I got the next female. The front-seat passenger was the girlfriend of the 16-year-old lad who was driving. She suffered quite a badly broken left leg.

"After I laid all three of them on the field I said to my colleague we were too close to the car. As we moved the last one away from that spot, something exploded and landed where we had just been."

All three girls and the male passenger thrown clear sustained serious injuries.

The driver was convicted fordangerous driving, no insurance and being a disqualified driver and jailed for 12 months but has since been released.

More than two years later, Pc Draper says the incident remains fresh in his mind.

He said: "It certainly is something that will never go away.

"You feel all sorts of emotions. You feel angry towards the driver - he could have killed five people that night."

Chief Constable Simon Parr said: "PC Draper risked his life by dragging three young women from a burning car.

"PC Draper received a commendation for his high degree of professional judgement, determination and courage which he showed during the incident."