A young motorcyclist suffered a horror smash when a bird flew into his helmet while he was riding - leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
Sam Beecroft, 21, was traveling at around 40mph when a pigeon swooped down "from out of nowhere" and hit him on the right side of his head. Sam lost control of his Yamaha bike and swerved off the road into a fence, rendering him unconscious.
The youngster from Morpeth, Northumberland, suffered a broken back in the crash and underwent four months of intensive treatment in hospital. Despite doctors' best efforts, Sam has been left paralyzed and will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, although he counts himself lucky to be alive at all.
Recalling the crash he said, "I was on my way to work and all of a sudden a pigeon appeared and smacked the side of my helmet. I lost my balance, swerved straight into a fence and got
knocked out. When I woke up I knew it was serious because I couldn't feel my legs and I'd never felt that even though I'd crashed before."
He added, "that same day at the hospital the doctor told me 'you'll never walk again' My family were crying and I just said 'okay'.
"I think I'm lucky to be alive and it could have been so much worse - I should have died. I was about 8 mm from breaking my neck. It was a freak accident, I've never heard of another motorbike rider being paralyzed after hitting a bird."
The crash happened on the B6524 in Morpeth on 27 August 2017 while a then 20-year-old Sam was on his way to work as a baggage handler at Newcastle Airport. The first person to attend to Sam and dial 999 [emergency] was a female driver, who he had overtaken minutes earlier and who also worked at the airport.
Paramedics from the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) arrived by helicopter and treated Sam at the scene. He was then taken by land ambulance to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle, where it was revealed he had a T3 spinal cord injury.
After two weeks at the RVI Sam went through three months of rehabilitation and physiotherapy at James Cook University Hospital, Middlesborough. Sam is paralyzed from the chest down but does have the use of his arms and hands.
He has paid tribute to the emergency service personnel who treated him, especially the GNAAS paramedics.
Sam said, "there were some dark times and moments where I thought 'what if I had done this differently?'. But there's nothing I can about it now and I just have to get on with my life, I'm lucky to have what I have. The paramedics saved my life, especially the air ambulance guys, who were incredible."
Since December 2017 Sam has been back at home with his dad, Ian, and step mum, Gill. Their house has been modified for wheelchair access and Sam has bought a car that he can drive without the use of his legs.
Less than a year after the accident, Sam was riding motorcycles again and he has been pictured riding at Silverstone Circuit, the home of British motor racing. He also goes to the gym five times a week and plays wheelchair rugby.