Policeman's escape after being hit in face by petrol bomb

The policeman can be seen on fire on the right as a colleague works to put out the flames

A police officer has been describing the moment that he was hit in the face with a petrol bomb during rioting in north Belfast.

The man's head was engulfed in flames in the attack last weekend. Yet he survived almost unscathed.

But after the fire was put out, he stood up and got back on duty.

Talking to Radio Ulster's Talkback on Friday, the officer dismissed his injury saying it felt "like bad sunburn".

"I didn't see anything coming towards me, but all of a sudden you are just lit up in flames," he said.

"I didn't realise the flames had gone under my visor, right away. But it was the quick reaction of my colleague who got me straight out of the line and who tried to extinguish it by denying the flames oxygen. That is part of our training and that was done very quickly.

"To be honest, I thought I was all on fire and I couldn't put my hands to my face in case that made matters worse.

'Minor burn'

"By the time I got down on to the ground and the flames were not going out, I did feel myself starting to burn and I was a bit apprehensive.

"But they were quickly extinguished and I thought that was fine, I got away with that one."

petrol bomb A colleague tries to beat out the flames as the policeman lies on the ground

The officer said his injury was a "minor burn" so he did not stop work.

"If everyone who got hit with a stone or a bottle or a petrol bomb did that, there would be no front line," he said, adding that he had got away with a red face and a singed eyebrow, thanks to his quick-thinking colleague.

"His reactions probably saved me from having further injuries and I was thankful for what he did," he said.

'Attempted murder'

He added that he did not bear a grudge against the person who threw the petrol bomb.

"A lot of them do it for recreational purposes, it is anything but... it is attempted murder," he said.

"We are just human beings underneath that uniform. It is nothing else. I do not hold any grudges against whoever is in front of me - it is a job that we do."

But he said that if he were lying in hospital with serious injuries, he might feel differently.

More than 70 police officers have been injured in violence in Northern Ireland over the past week.

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