The rescue of a Catterick Garrison parachutist, who suffered catastrophic injuries after smashing into the gable end of a house, will be featured on TV this weekend.
Darren Crumpler was left dangling from a television aerial in excruciating pain following the incident at Shotton Colliery, County Durham, in July 2019.
The 51-year-old’s story is featured on this Sunday’s Emergency Helicopter Medics, on More4.
The series follows the work of the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), which responded in the immediate aftermath of Mr Crumpler’s crash.
Describing the incident, he said: “It was 14 July 2019 – it was just like any other normal day. I turned up at the skydiving centre and had some tea and toast then I got my kit ready and did my first jump.
“I then booked myself onto the next flight and jumped again – that was the last thing I remember about that day.”
Mr Crumpler had taken up skydiving as a hobby in 2017, after his wife Emma bought him his first experience as a gift.
He said: “She asked me what I wanted for Christmas, so I decided to write a sort of bucket list which had skydiving on it.
“After I had done it, she asked how I found it, thinking I would say horrible, but I said brilliant and took it up as a pastime.”
Just one year later, Mr Crumpler was certified to Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) level 1 and decided he was going to get his full sky diving license.
He was just three jumps away from being fully qualified when the unthinkable happened.
On his second skydive of the day, Mr Crumpler spiralled into the side of the house. His parachute had wrapped itself around the roof and he was suspended in the air, dangling from his harness.
Although Mr Crumpler remembers very little about the accident other than the pain, GNAAS paramedic Paul Burnage attended the incident and remembers it well.
He said: “Mr Crumpler was up against the gable end wall and was hanging by his harness with his parachute still attached and caught around the TV aerial.
“It looked like something from a cartoon but was clearly a very serious incident and one which he was lucky to survive.”
GNAAS airlifted Mr Crumpler to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough where he stayed for ten weeks.
He said: “My injuries were an open fractured ankle, a shattered heel, a broken femur, an open elbow fracture, a fractured pelvis, a burst bone in my spine, a laceration to the head and three skin grafts.
“One of the skin grafts involved removing muscle and nerves from my wrist and putting it where my elbow was. Now when I touch my elbow, I feel it on my wrist.”
Although he survived the initial impact, Mr Crumpler was told he faced a long and uncertain recovery. And he therefore remembers the moment he discovered that he would walk again.
He said: “When I was able to sit up and dangle my legs off the bed I just burst into tears. Not because of the pain, but because it was so emotional as I honestly didn’t believe I would ever be able to walk again.
“I was so scared as I had no indications of what my abilities would be. Now I just want to push myself and carry on, but I know I need to be patient.”
Although Mr Crumpler’s recovery is proving to be a slow process, nothing has stood in the way of him spreading the word about the work of GNAAS whenever he can. Mr Crumpler’s incident was one of more than 1,500 call-outs the charity responded to in 2019.
He said: “I have absolutely no words for what I think about GNAAS. I am unbelievably grateful. What they do is extraordinary. My wife and I tell everyone about them.”
Emergency Helicopter Medics is on at 9pm on More4.
GNAAS is raising money to become a 24-hour service. To help, please visit gna.as/247-appeal