After his plane burst into flames, former special forces soldier Jamie Hull could feel his flesh burning.
The novice pilot was 1,000ft above the ground and alone on a two-seater aircraft. He had just two options – stay and be burnt alive or jump and hope for the best.
But in order to survive such a death-defying escape he had to guide the plane low enough to leap out, the Mirror reports.
Despite the fire melting his skin to the bone, he somehow managed to stay conscious long enough to lower his altitude, clamber onto the plane's wing and jump before it exploded on impact with the ground.
Jamie, from London, suffered third-degree burns to 65% of his face and body, and his eye socket and cheek bone were shattered.
He also had severe internal injuries and battled renal failure, kidney dialysis, pneumonia and septicaemia, with doctors giving him just a 5% chance of survival.
But after spending six months in an induced coma in the US, and a further 18 months in a UK hospital undergoing more than 60 operations, survive he did.
“Quite honestly I shouldn’t be here after what I went through,” Jamie admitted.
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“It is miraculous. What I endured, the price I paid for survival was off the charts in terms of suffering and injury and what I went through in those early years. I don’t know how my body was able to hold on.”
Despite severe bouts of depression where he contemplated suicide, Jamie has rebuilt his life running marathons, the Race Across America and competing in the Invictus Games.
Now he is hoping a book he has written about his experiences – Life on a Thread – will help others to keep going.
It was far from easy, however. “I absolutely did not think I was going to survive,” said Jamie, of Leighton Buzzard, Beds.
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“I absolutely believed with all heart and all sincerity my body was going to give up the ghost. I was under no illusion because I was a trained patrol medic with 21 SAS.
“With far lesser burns you go to the wall in no time. Any burns surgeon will tell you it is very rare that someone with more than 40% burns makes it.”
The horrific accident happened in 2007 when, on a break from training, Jamie flew to Florida to fulfil his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot.
He was on a routine solo training flight when disaster struck and he saw flames engulf the aircraft.
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They soon breached the cockpit around the floor pedals, working their way up his legs – but he had no escape as he was still 1,000ft above ground.
But his military training kicked in and he knew he had 45 seconds to save his life.
Despite agonising pain, he guided the plane to just 15ft above ground, climbed on to the wing and threw his burning body to the floor.
Describing those 45 seconds that were to change his life for ever, Jamie says: “Initially there was some panic going on. This was no drill – it was an actual emergency.
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He added: “I couldn’t have taken moments or seconds longer in that cockpit. I got out of there by the skin of my teeth.”
Somehow Jamie, 45, managed to remain conscious for 15 minutes until paramedics arrived.
“I was holding on with everything I had," Jamie said. I felt like a mouse on a thread and any moment the thread was going to snap, I wasn’t going to be able to hold on any more.
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“That would have been me gone. I don’t know how I held on. Within those 15 minutes after I jumped I must’ve given it everything I had to hold on.”
Jamie was rushed to hospital and immediately put into an induced coma.
Doctors told his mum, Shirley, her son had little chance of survival – 5% at most.
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He developed life-threatening complications including renal failure, sepsis and pneumonia. But when medics told Shirley the only way to save her son was to amputate his legs, she refused, saying he would rather die than live as an amputee.
“I wouldn’t have wanted that level of injury – the burns, the internals, the fractures and no legs," he said.
Now he hopes to inspire others.
Jamie explains: “Now I am back to my former self, I am highly motivated.
“I am not a superman, I am just a normal flesh and blood being, but I am pretty disciplined and that is what helped carry me through the early years.
“I want to have my adventures and I want to hopefully inspire others and send my message that with great will and determination we can overcome great obstacles."
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