Freethorpe family thank East Anglian Air Ambulance after Strumpshaw crash

PUBLISHED: 16:45 22 May 2012 | UPDATED: 17:20 22 May 2012

The Lee family from Freethorpe who are fundraising for the East Anglian Air Ambulance less than a month after being involved in a car accident in Strumpshaw. Left to right Vickie and mum Lesley and dad Graham with Elizabeth and John Flinton.Photo: Steve Adams

The Lee family from Freethorpe who are fundraising for the East Anglian Air Ambulance less than a month after being involved in a car accident in Strumpshaw. Left to right Vickie and mum Lesley and dad Graham with Elizabeth and John Flinton.Photo: Steve Adams

The sight of both her daughters injured on the roadside after a horrific car crash is something Lesley Lee will never forget.

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“I saw the helicopter coming down and I felt sick,” she said. “You watch all these programmes on TV and you know that when the helicopter is needed, it is something quite serious.”

Teenage sisters Elizabeth and Vickie Lee, from Freethorpe near Acle, had been travelling to Norwich with Elizabeth’s fiancé John Flinton, 19, and their friend Phoebe Preston, 16, when the accident happened on Long Lane in Strumpshaw on April 13.

A sudden rain shower caused the car to skid into the path of an oncoming Land Rover, leaving Elizabeth, 19, with a broken right leg, kneecap and foot, and other fractures to her left ankle, collar bone and breast bone.

Vickie, 16, fractured two lower vertebrae – but it was the painful seatbelt injury around her waist which medical teams feared could have indicated abdominal injuries, prompting the decision for her to be airlifted by the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA).

Mrs Lee, 50, said it was “every mother’s nightmare”.

“I didn’t know what was happening. I had both my girls lying on back-boards,” she said. “I didn’t know which one to go to first. They both needed me. The air ambulance didn’t know how severe the injuries were but Vickie was in hospital within minutes.”

Mrs Lee said EAAA crew member Dr Tom Moore was a reassuring presence during the family’s crisis.

“Once the girls were stable, he came over to me and told me what was going on,” she said. “He spent two or three minutes, but it was just enough to stop me going out of my head. I will always remember that. Obviously the focus was on them both and I was just the mother hen running in circles, but he calmed me down. He was such a wonderful, wonderful man.

“Our overwhelming feeling is gratitude to everyone. At the end of the day, the good guys were there for my family and we need to keep the good guys flying.”

Vickie said: “I remember having three paramedics with me. They were trying to roll me onto a back-board and they were being really rough with me and my hair was getting caught in all the Velcro. It was really painful. The man from the air ambulance took my hair and curled it round so he could move it so it didn’t hurt me. It is little things like that which were really important.

“I asked if he could stay with me, and he grabbed my hand and stayed with me all the way to A&E. I started panicking in the back of the helicopter. I passed out and this man told me that I couldn’t do that; that I needed to stay with him. He asked me about who I was, and about school. He calmed me down. It was only three or four minutes. I had at least five people tell me that if we had gone by land I could have lost my mobility.”

Vickie is sitting her GCSEs this month at Acle High School. Before the accident she would enjoy roller-skating, football, running and dancing – but she has been told she cannot play any sports for at least three months while she recovers.

“It is positive that I am out of it alive, but it is hard losing those things,” she said. “I never knew how sporty I actually was until this.”

The two sisters are recuperating at the family home on Old Chapel Road after spending 12 days at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Elizabeth, who was carried to hospital by land ambulance, said her experience had prompted a decision to bring forward her wedding date with her fiancé John, who had pulled her free from the car despite suffering a broken collar bone himself.

“John didn’t even realise he had a broken collar bone,” she said. “He was a hero.

“It was the worst experience of my life. It just felt like a bad dream. I am just so glad that all four of us are OK.”

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