Police officer tells of fire ordeal
A PSNI officer whose head was engulfed in flames after being hit with a petrol bomb in Belfast has said he feared his whole body was on fire.
The 50-year-old sergeant, who cannot be named for security reasons, was holding the line against loyalist rioters at a flashpoint in the north of the city when he was struck by the potentially lethal weapon.
"All I could see was a sheet of flames in front of me so, I couldn't really determine how much of me was alight," he said.
"I couldn't feel the fire at first but the longer the flames were there I could feel myself burn. I was quite confident that the flames would be put out - it was just a case of making sure that we starved the flames of oxygen to put it out."
Police have been pelted with bricks, bottles, heavy masonry and over 100 petrol bombs during five consecutive nights of disorder which has erupted after Orangemen were banned from marching along a contested stretch of road in Ardoyne which separates loyalist and nationalist communities.
There have been over 60 arrests of people aged between 12 and 52 years old.
The officer, who has 27 years' experience, added: "I didn't see this petrol bomb before it hit me so, I was sort of caught unawares. The difficulty I had was the flames that had got underneath the visor which meant I couldn't see how much of myself was on fire or not."
He has hailed the four-stone of equipment and swift actions of his colleagues for helping to save his life.
Chief Inspector Graham Dodds, the commander in charge of 16 riot squad units, said the petrol bomb attack was being treated as attempted murder. He said it was fortunate no one had been seriously hurt during the serious disturbances which have rocked parts of Northern Ireland over the past week.
"It is attempted murder - what else do you think throwing a lit bomb into someone else's face is. At the very least, if you don't kill somebody you could seriously injure them and it is just by the grace of God that has not happened and that we have good training," said Mr Dodds.