A SHOP worker and customer saved a man’s life after he burst into a fireball on a petrol station forecourt.

Petrol station attendant Bijay Pandey ran to the man’s aid after he spotted him in distress.

He described how he was “screaming” and rolling over” on the ground as the flames took hold.

The incident happened at 10.15am today at the Texaco Britannia Service Station in Mersea Road, Colchester.

Mr Pandey, 28, was working behind the shop counter at the time when he looked out of the window and saw the man walk to one of the station’s diesel fuel pumps.

He said: “A man came up to the pump, got out the diesel hose and put it on himself.

“I ran outside and said: ‘What are you doing?’

“I told him to move away and he went down [off the forecourt] and had a lighter in his pocket and set light to his body.

“He fell down and was screaming and rolling around on the floor.”

Customers watched in horror but one ran into the shop and grabbed a fire extinguisher while Mr Pandey fetched water.

Together they put the flames out while the emergency services were called.

Mr Pandey said the man, aged in his fifties, had been “covered in fuel”.

An ambulance, rapid response vehicle, ambulance officer and Essex and Herts Air Ambulance were sent to the scene.

Police also attended along with Essex Fire and Rescue Service but the flames were out when they arrived.

Mr Pandey, who continued serving at the shop after the incident yesterday, added: “We didn’t expect this in the morning. I am shocked by it.”

He said despite what happened, the man did not appear to be severely burned and the flames were mainly on his upper body.

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “We were called at 10.20am with reports of a patient with burns in Mersea Road, Colchester.

“One man was taken to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford by land ambulance.” The hospital has a specialist burns unit.

A spokesman for Essex Police added: “We attended and found a man injured. He has been taken to hospital with injuries to his arms and hands.

“We do not believe anyone else was involved.”