‘Pothole broke my back,’ says injured firefighter

A pothole on the A375 near Putts Corner crossroads. Ref shs 5896-04-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

A pothole on the A375 near Putts Corner crossroads. Ref shs 5896-04-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A firefighter from Sidmouth narrowly escaped paralysis when he broke his back after being thrown from his bicycle when he hit a pothole.

Medics said the 45-year-old’s injuries were so severe he had been inches away from facing life in a wheelchair had he landed differently.

The dad-of-three’s cycle ride with a friend came to an abrupt end on Monday lunchtime when he hit a pothole measuring more than 50cm long, 33cm wide and four centimetres deep, as he rode along a stretch of the A375 from Honiton to Sidmouth.

An X-ray and CT scan revealed the cyclist had broken two vertebrae in his back. He dislocated one shoulder and partially dislocated the other. His bicycle and helmet were broken and the clothes he was wearing ruined.

Speaking exclusively to the Herald, the cyclist said: “The surgeon said if I had landed a bit lower down, or twisted a different way, I could have been paralysed.

“It brings it home. It makes you realise, something so simple – you are going along enjoying yourself then you could be in a wheelchair the next minute just because of a pothole in the road.”

He added: “I didn’t know a lot about it. I was lying halfway on the road and halfway on the embankment. I had been going about 25 mph. Next thing I know, I lost control of my bike. I had hit a pothole. I went over the handlebars.

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“I hit the embankment with my chest. I knew straight away I had done something to my back.”

After an hour-long wait in the cold for an ambulance, the man was taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Surgeons diagnosed a broken back. The dad-of-three faces at least six weeks in a back brace while his injuries mend.

He is unable to return to the fire service for the foreseeable future.

“The pothole looked like it was established and like it had been there for a while.

“When I hit it, it was just shiny where the sun was shining on it.

“They are mending them, but not nearly enough. They are not able to keep up with demand.

“It’s down to the Conservative government not funding it properly.

“We are going to see more of it, not only the potholes but the length of time you have to wait for an ambulance.”