A FORMER firefighter has been hailed a ‘‘superhero’’ after helping a driver who smashed into a Halstead bakery.

The devastating crash happened on Sunday evening, when a man in his 40s ploughed his Renault Laguna through the entrance of Hume’s Bakery on the High Street.

Emergency services arrived at the scene within minutes of being alerted to the incident at around 9.30pm, and by 10pm firefighters had freed the unconscious man from the vehicle.

The casualty, who is currently suffering from a life-threatening condition, was taken to Colchester General Hospital by the Ambulance Service and firefighters remained at the scene until a structural engineer confirmed the building was safe.

Now ex-firefighter Peter James, who lives opposite the bakery, is being commended for his quick-thinking and potentially life-saving actions, by the resident who first alerted the emergency services.

Simon Edney, 46, of Colne Road, was the first person to find the car during his journey home from the bottom of the town.

After calling 999, the operator asked him to try to gain access to the vehicle in order to check the driver’s wellbeing and breathing, but all the doors were locked.

Unable to free the driver, Simon started to panic after hearing ‘‘fluids coming from out the car’’ and thinking ‘‘I need to get him out fast’’, but Peter, a former firefighter who served for six years, saw Simon’s struggle from the window of his flat and immediately rushed down to help.

He initially tried to smash the passenger side window with a brick, but that didn’t work so quickly decided to use a hammer instead, before climbing into the car to aid the injured man.

Simon said: ‘‘Peter broke the passenger side window with a hammer so we could get to the driver and then he got straight into the car to help the guy.

‘‘He held the driver’s head until the ambulance service got there.

‘‘He was like a superhero.’’

Hume’s Bakery has been a staple of the Halstead High Street for nearly 60 years.

A spokesman said they worked throughout the night following the accident to clear the debris and hope to re-open today.