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6 December 2016, 08:39
A man from Charing, who miraculously survived a horrific car crash, but sustained severe life-changing injuries, reunited with the lorry driver he crashed into and emergency service crews who helped save his life.
Speaking for the first time about the near fatal crash, that took place on 11 January 2016, Simon Oakley explains what happened: “I’d just finished working a night shift for a vehicle recovery firm in Ashford and had a parcel to collect in Gillingham. I felt ok so decided not to go home for a sleep but to make the journey.
“The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital to find my best friend and niece at my bedside telling me I’d been involved in a horrendous crash and that I’d been unconscious for six days. I couldn’t work out what had happened or why I was there, it was terrifying and very confusing, none of it made sense.”
It’s believed that Simon had fallen asleep at the wheel of his silver Vauxhall Corsa in Beaumont Davey Close, Faversham and crashed - head on - into a lorry coming in the opposite direction. Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS), South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), Kent Police and the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance (KSSAA) rushed to the scene.
Faversham firefighter Dan Packham, said: “The car was embedded under the lorry and was almost unrecognisable from the front. We used our powerful hydraulic rescue equipment to create space to allow paramedics to administer vital first aid to help stabilise Simon, before getting him on his way to hospital, knowing that he was in a serious and potentially life-threatening condition.”
Simon was in and out of consciousness and due to the severity of his injuries, had to be resuscitated in the operating theatre at London’s Kings College Hospital. His left knee, right leg, femur, pelvis, a bone in his lower back and hand were all badly broken during the collision. He has had numerous operations and countless pins in both legs and after spending six weeks in Kings he was transferred to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford for almost 11 weeks.
Simon added: “Working for a recovery firm I regularly see smashed up cars but I never expected to find myself involved in a crash. I know I’m incredibly lucky but recovering from this crash has seen me in my darkest hours and at my lowest ebb. It’s had a very traumatic impact on my life and I will have a permanent disability and suffer pain for the rest of my life.
“I’ve been off work for ten months, have had to move to sheltered accommodation that is wheelchair accessible and undergo psychiatric help, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. I still have some very low moments but it has changed my life, now I’m thankful every time I open my eyes in the morning.
“I’m incredibly grateful to all of the emergency services who helped save my life and get me back on my feet again. I wanted to share my horrific story in a bid to warn other motorists that they really are dicing with death if they drive when tired.”
After a long, slow, painful recovery, Simon has only recently managed to walk unaided. He will be visiting Faversham fire station at 2pm on Monday (5 December) to meet the driver of the lorry he crashed into and to thank fire crews and the other emergency services for helping to save his life.
Simon ended: “I lost six days of my life and still can’t remember anything about the crash, I’ve seen photos of the mangled wreckage of my car and I'm amazed they got me out and that I’m still alive to tell the tale. However, I’m still wracked with guilt towards the lorry driver, who I understand was uninjured but I sincerely hope the crash hasn’t affected him. It will be extremely emotional to be meet him and apologise in person.
Faversham firefighter, Dan Packham, who has helped Simon fill in the missing pieces of the crash and provided emotional support said: “We rarely get to find out what has happened to crash victims and are delighted that Simon is doing so well. However, his story does have a very serious safety message, driving while tired is a risk at any time of the year, but is escalated in winter when drivers may be more tired during the darker nights.
“If you are driving and feel drowsy, find a safe place to stop. Drink some coffee or a high-caffeine drink and have a rest to allow time for the caffeine to kick in. But remember, the only real cure for sleepiness is to have a proper sleep.”
Chief Inspector Tony Dyer from Kent Police said: “People don’t just fall asleep at the wheel. There are tell-tale signs of fatigue and that's when you must act before it's too late. Every driver has a responsibility, not only to themselves, but also to their passengers and other road users to make sure they are safe to get behind the wheel."