Peter was working in one of his barns when the accident happened. “I was in the barn when, in a split second, the pipe burst, and boiling water gushed out all over me. I knew immediately that I needed to get out, but I was trapped in the corner and the only way out was through the torrent. I was soaked through as I ran 50m to reach and get into a cattle trough of cold water.”

Realising something serious had happened, Jack his son called 999 and, along with Peter’s partner Ros, and Miranda from the office, they ran to the cattle trough to help and reassure Peter. A land ambulance crew arrived just minutes later and upon seeing the injuries that Peter had suffered, immediately called for Devon Air Ambulance. 

The aircrew arrived and administered Ketamine as pain relief as they gently wrapped Peter in specialist cling film to help minimise the risk of infection. Through his agony, Peter recalls the coincidence of recognising one of the critical care aircrew paramedics, Chris Saunders, from a joint love of rugby and connection with Bideford Rugby Club. Peter continued, “I remember that way back as a 16-year-old, I didn’t have enough money to pay for something I needed at the Club – and Chris lent me £5.00. I’ve tried since to pay him back, but he’s never taken it. And then he turned up as one of the aircrew to rescue me, I really hadn’t expected that!”

The paramedics from both land and air conveyed Peter as gently as possible to the helicopter and flew him to Southmead Hospital at Bristol for care in their Burns Unit. Assessments revealed he had suffered 52% burns, specifically his right shoulder, arm, hand and torso and both legs. Due to the extent of the injuries Peter was moved to Swansea Specialist Burns Unit immediately. To manage the severity of the pain, he was placed on a ventilator in an induced coma for the following ten days. During his stay in Swansea, Peter had major skin grafts, from his left side to his right arm, torso and leg. His memory is very limited: “I do, however, remember that the nurses had to roll me twice a day but it was such absolute agony, they had to administer extra painkillers before each time.”

Ros remembered that before the Air Ambulance took off from the field, Peter was fully conscious and making conversation. At this point, Ros had no doubt that Peter was going to be okay; it was not until she received the call from the doctors later that evening that she realised how very serious his injuries were. Ros commented: “It was a very worrying time for everyone, and some very difficult days followed. The support the family and I received from so many people over the following weeks was overwhelming. Due to the COVID restrictions we were unable to visit Peter in Swansea, which was heart-wrenching, but I reassured myself by knowing he was in the best place he could be. The whole medical process, team and care Peter received, and is still receiving, is amazing.”

Peter remained in Swansea hospital for 6 weeks, and a further 2 weeks rehabilitating in Bristol Burns Unit by which time he was undergoing intense physiotherapy.

As well as the burns, I had lost such a lot of muscle that I was unable to walk. The physios have been working really hard with me and I still go to Barnstaple Hospital twice a week and back to Bristol once a week to rebuild my strength. They also have to ‘stretch’ the skin, which is so unbelievably painful; it makes doing the physio really hard. But, thankfully, I do now have about 80% movement in my right arm and shoulder and, hopefully, that will continue to improve.

While Peter was in hospital, his family and friends rallied around, and Jack continued to manage the farms and the cheese business in his dad’s absence and daughter Katie carried on with her milking shifts. Meanwhile younger son, Henry, aged 13, along with his mother Alli, were motivated by the accident to organise and arrange a cycle event to say thank you to Devon Air Ambulance. Henry’s target was an ambitious £5,000. However, the event proved more successful than he could ever have imagined.

By the weekend of the challenge, it had been promoted far and wide and attracted support from friends, family, locals and businesses from around the area. The £5,000 target had been well and truly exceeded and, incredibly, was already sitting at over £10,000! In addition, Torch Vets, Tarka Spring Water and Tea on the Taw had also contributed both financially and with refreshments to all the cyclists. A total of 56 cyclists took part in the stunning 33-mile route along the Tarka Trail, with a celebratory socially-distanced gathering at the end. 

Peter was thrilled to be at the start and end of the ride.

It was amazing to see so many friends turn up in support of Henry’s event. But everyone knows just what a great cause Devon Air Ambulance is. No-one ever knows when they might need the service. My injuries were so time critical; I just can’t imagine what might have happened if they hadn’t helped me that day.

"I am so proud of Henry for galvanising such great support and everyone had such a great time. The fundraising is now over £13,000 and still rising – we are all overwhelmed. But it just doesn’t bear thinking about how different things could have been so our gratitude is to Devon Air Ambulance and to everyone for their support to help keep that service flying, coupled with thanks to the amazing staff at Southmead and Swansea who were just incredible. As I started to feel a little better, I felt like I was in a scene from Casualty!”

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Peter with his family at the cycle fundraiser.