Three years ago in 2016, Sam had been involved in a road traffic collision that had meant it was touch and go as to whether he would ever walk again. 

At the time of the incident, Sam was employed by Western Power and was the passenger in a works Land Rover vehicle on his way to their next job at Cheriton Bishop.

The vehicle had pulled up at a junction and was indicating to turn right onto a busy road, when they were hit from behind at such speed and with such force that the Land Rover flipped and rolled over before landing on its side. 

Sam sustained significant injuries and was trapped in the vehicle. When paramedics from Devon Air Ambulance joined the land ambulance crew at the scene, they knew there was a risk that Sam might have spinal injuries and needed to be kept as still as  possible. 

The aircrew worked alongside the other emergency services to ensure Sam’s safety; he was finally released from the Land Rover and conveyed to the land ambulance. It was recognised that, with the injuries sustained, it would be safer for Sam to travel to Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital by road with aircrew paramedic Mark Hawley in attendance. 

Once at RD&E, it was ascertained that Sam had an exploded T11 fracture of his vertebrae and needed surgery to insert two 6-inch rods to stabilise his spine. 

To his surprise, following his surgery, Sam was encouraged by the physiotherapy team to start exercising straight away and, having been fearful that he might never walk again, he was keen to prove otherwise.

Sam was elated when the following week his wife Lija saw him standing - ‘her face was just a picture of pure relief!’. It was not entirely plain sailing, however, and Sam remained off work for a whole year.

My job involves climbing electricity poles for a living,' he explained, 'and there was no way I could have done that until I was completely better. My injuries meant that I lost a lot of strength in my back and my legs and had to rebuild that up from scratch.

The accident had an impact on his whole team.

We are such a close-knit unit and I knew that everyone was really worried when the accident happened. We learned after the accident that we’d been hit by a young, uninsured driver in a vehicle with three bald tyres! My employers were brilliant and, fortunately, my colleague who was driving sustained only minor injuries in the accident –  I’m really grateful that everyone was so supportive.

Sam came to visit the Air Ambulance team in April 2019 and seeing the helicopter brought back many memories.

It’s quite emotional seeing everyone here today. Although my accident was three years ago and I know that my rehabilitation is still ongoing, I’m just so relieved that I’m now well enough and able to play with my young son, Toby. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the help I received by everyone that day; it’s still so overwhelming. And thanks for the opportunity to visit the airbase; it’s a really important part of the process of returning to full health to do such things.

Devon Air Ambulance is a charity that is 100% independent of Government or National Lottery funding; it is our 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 young Lydia? There are all sorts of ways to get involved, here are a few.


Left: Sam visiting the aircraft at his airbase visit, Right: the Landrover on its side