After the couple's leisurely picnic lunch on the beach, Tom Negus took their dogs for a walk while Laura Negus rode her horse along Saunton Sands alongside around 20 fellow riders from Warwickshire Hunt Riding Club.

Laura was riding at the back of the group when her horse stumbled on a wet sand pocket and she was thrown into the sand, ending up face down and unconscious in the shallow water. 

Sam Austin and her partner Richard, also from the Riding Club, were ahead of Laura’s group when she fell. They first realised Laura had fallen when her horse cantered past them. They rode swiftly to catch the riderless horse and looked back to see Laura lying on the sand.

The tide was coming in fast and Laura was in danger of drowning and Laura wasn’t moving. Sam and Richard galloped back along the beach to drag her from the waves, surprised at just how much the water and sand added to her weight. 

Sam immediately called 999 for help and, thankful for her first-aid training, commenced CPR, stopping only to move Laura further up the beach again as the tide continued to rise.

First Responders were swiftly on scene and continued the work Sam had started. Soon after, Devon’s Air Ambulance arrived, stopping to drop off critical care paramedic Dave Huyton and Dr Emily Foote, an observer on the aircraft that day, before landing a little further up the beach. Dave Huyton explained: 

I remember this incident really well. Laura was clearly very unwell and needed urgent medical help. She had obvious physical injuries from the fall, but it was also apparent her brain had been starved of oxygen as she was caught by the incoming waves. Our priority was to stabilise her for the flight to North Devon District Hospital just as swiftly as possible. It was a real team effort with great initial assistance from Sam and the Community First Responder and the local Coastguards.” 

Later that day, Laura was  transferred from North Devon District Hospital to Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital where she remained in Intensive Care for a week before finally turning the corner and beginning the lengthy journey of recovery, including intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation. 

Sam was delighted to catch up personally with Laura several months later back in Gloucestershire, and was impressed with her determination. Says Sam:

It was really great to see Laura again and she looked so well! She really is very driven and was completely focused on getting better.

Learning that Laura and Tom were planning to visit Devon again in April this year, paramedic Dave Huyton was delighted to organise a reunion with some of the emergency personnel involved in her rescue. Meeting Laura at DAA’s Eaglescott airbase, Dave said:

We were all really relieved to learn that despite serious injuries and possible long-term consequences, Laura has made a remarkable recovery; it’s fantastic news and really brilliant to see her again.

Laura explained:

It’s only down to my incredible team of rescuers, including those at DAA, that I am here today - thanks to their rapid response after my freak horse riding accident last spring. The aircrew and all emergency crews are amazing, they literally are saving lives. I will be forever grateful.

Devon Air Ambulance is a charity that exists thanks to its supporters, who make it possible for the aircrews to respond and act so quickly in time-critical situations. Can you help get the essential critical care that's needed to patients like Laura? There are all sorts of ways to get involved, here are a few.


Left to right: Laura and Tom meet the crew who attended her; Laura recovering in hospital