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Taxi driver lauded as a hero as U.K. police treat hospital car explosion as suspected terrorist incident

London — A possible terrorist attack may have been averted on Sunday by a heroic taxi driver in the northern England city of Liverpool. Video shows the moment a taxi pulled up to a hospital in the British city and exploded in a ball of flames. It emerged on Monday that the driver's quick actions may have prevented a more serious tragedy.

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the taxi driver on Monday for bravery and presence of mind, and the Mayor of Liverpool said the driver had heroically averted what could have been an "awful disaster," after apparently noticing his passenger's suspicious behavior and locking the man in his car.

Smoke rises as a vehicle burns outside the Liverpool Women's Hospital, in Liverpool, England, following an explosion on November 14, 2021. Carl Bessant via Reuters

The good news is the taxi driver survived with relatively minor injuries. Security camera video posted online by the Liverpool Echo newspaper appears to show the taxi pulling in outside the Liverpool Women's Hospital just before a large explosion inside the car. The driver jumps out just before the taxi bursts into flames. Police have confirmed that the suspected terrorist in the vehicle died.

Scene of a car blast at Liverpool Women's Hospital in Liverpool
A police officer stands guard near the scene of a car blast at Liverpool Women's Hospital in Liverpool, England, November 15, 2021. PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS

It was not yet clear on Monday morning what the motivation for the apparent attack was.

Officials said the investigation suggested an improvised explosive device was involved, and it was their assumption "that it was built by the passenger."

Britain's government raised the national threat level from terrorism to severe from the previous level of substantial on Monday after the blast, meaning officials believed a new attack was highly likely. Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed the change in the threat level.  

British media reports named the quick-thinking taxi driver as David Perry. CBS News could not immediately confirm the details of his actions, but amazingly, he was said to have suffered only minor injuries in the explosion, including cuts and a ruptured eardrum. 

The incident occurred close to Liverpool's cathedral, where a service was held on Sunday to remember the fallen soldiers from the two world wars. More than 1,000 people attended the service, but police said they could not yet confirm reports that the suspected terror attack might have initially been planned against the memorial.

Police keep guard after car blast at Liverpool Women's Hospital, in Liverpool
Police officers keep guard outside a house in the Kensington area of Liverpool, England, where counterterrorism officers arrested men after a vehicle exploded outside Liverpool Women's Hospital, on November 15, 2021. PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS

Police arrested four men in connection with the terrorist incident. Britain's national counterintelligence agency MI5 was helping with the investigation, and multiple addresses around the city were still being searched on Monday.

The four arrested have since been released from custody, police said late Monday night.

"Following interviews with the arrested men, we are satisfied with the accounts they have provided and they have been released from police custody," Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said in a statement.

Jackson also said law enforcement has a "much greater" understanding of the component parts of the explosive device, how they were obtained, and how they were likely assembled.

"The investigation continues to move at a fast pace with investigative teams working throughout the night," Jackson said.

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