Motor racing marshal Tony Knell was knocked unconscious and propelled 30 feet when a rally car travelling at 60 miles an hour crashed into him during at event at Fulbeck Airfield near Grantham.
His role as a volunteer marshal, which he had been doing for more than 10 years without any previous incident, was to safeguard spectators. Ironically, although he was standing behind a safety barrier at the side of the track, Tony sustained life threatening injuries as a result of the impact.
As well as fracturing his skull and suffering a bleed on the brain, he sustained fractures to his mouth, eye, ankle, tibia and fibula. He also had a ruptured ear drum and torn tendons in his biceps.
Onlookers rushed to the scene to help him and he was immediately put into the recovery position. The on-site rescue ambulance went to his aide and he was driven to another part of the airfield where Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance had landed.
The air ambulance crew were very concerned about Tony’s condition and his friend, who was marshalling with him at the time, was given the opportunity to say a final goodbye before the helicopter took off – just in case he didn’t survive the flight to Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham.
“I knew his condition was serious when I saw the air ambulance and it was heart breaking when the helicopter took off as I didn’t know if Tony was going to make it,” his fellow marshal says.
Tony was sedated by the air ambulance doctor and the team applied a pelvic binder to reduce the potential for major blood loss from his injuries.
It took under ten minutes to fly him to the Queen’s Medical Centre – the nearest major trauma centre to where the accident happened.
Due to his head injuries, Tony has no recollection of most of what happened during the ten days he was a patient there.
He has been told that he was taken to the operating theatre three times to have his leg and ankle pinned, but surgery didn’t proceed on the first two occasions because of concerns about his head injuries.
“Because I don’t remember anything it is as if it didn’t happen to me. I can watch the video of the accident time and time again, but it means nothing to me and is like watching someone else,” he explains.
However, one thing Tony is certain about is the lifesaving role Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance played in getting him to hospital as quickly as possible – successful treatment for injuries like those he suffered being time critical.
“I am sure I would have died if I had gone by land ambulance as Queen’s Medical Centre is over an hour away by road with no traffic problems,” he says.
Tony worked as an emergency care assistant with East of England Ambulance Service at the time of his accident. He had been in the job since 2008 and attended numerous incidents attended by the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance.
“I never thought that one day it might be me needing the help of an air ambulance. You just don’t know what’s around the corner for you,” he says.
Tony returned to the job but was forced to take early retirement on medical grounds in 2016 due to permanent memory loss and co-ordination problems, which he has had to live with since being injured.
He considers himself lucky to be alive saying: “I would not have survived if I didn’t get the urgent medical care I needed as quickly as I did – and that’s because of the air ambulance.”
To thank the charity, Tony presented a cheque for £2,500 to air ambulance doctor Mark Folman who treated him at the scene of his accident.
“That hopefully pays for the mission that saved my life and partly towards the cost of another flight to help someone else,” he says.