Living proof why every cyclist should wear a helmet

Date: Friday 27th June 2014
Ali Robinson with the bike he was riding at the time of the accident, the front forks of which were sheared, and the helmet that saved his life.
Ali Robinson with the bike he was riding at the time of the accident, the front forks of which were sheared, and the helmet that saved his life.

AN Eden-based professional athlete has thanked the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) and stressed the importance of cycle helmets after a horror crash in the district.

Ali Robinson, aged 30, suffered a fractured skull, broken neck and broken back when he was in collision with a bus while cycling on the A66 near Threlkeld.

A former professional cyclist, Ali was about to embark on his first season of full-time triathlon competition and was in training when the crash occurred. “I don’t remember anything about the accident, so I don’t actually know what happened but I was cycling on a route between Penrith and Keswick,” said Ali, who is originally from Dockray, near Ullswater.

“There was a bus with a double puncture stopped in a carriageway and I think I hit what had caused the puncture and crashed into the bus. Luckily there were an off-duty doctor and fireman who were in the queue of traffic after the accident and were on scene in a matter of minutes. They looked after me, along with members of the public, before emergency services arrived. I remember waking up to the sound of the air ambulance rotors.”

A GNAAS helicopter flew to the scene and swiftly transported him to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), Newcastle. “I believe the timescale from having the accident to being at hospital was only an hour, which is amazing,” said Ali, who underwent a seven-hour operation.

“I had fractures to my skull, a broken thoracic spine and a broken neck. Of the nine vertebrae I broke, several were unstable and so I had to have these fused. Four screws and two rods were used to bridge the badly-damaged vertebrae and create a scaffold which parallels my spine.

“I was fitted with a halo brace which is fixed to my skull with four screws and support around my body with a brace this effectively stops my neck from moving and allows the fractures to heal. I am now on what is likely to be a long road to recovery but hopefully a full one.”

Ali has competed in events all around Europe, as well as taking part in Lakeland races. He made a successful return to competition last season after a horrific bike crash early in the year while taking part in the British age group middle distance championships in Leicestershire. He was knocked unconscious but after treatment at the road side for injuries which included a damaged hip, Ali continued the race and recorded a top 30 finish.

He admitted that after his latest accident, the 2014 season was a “complete write-off” but thanked sponsors who “have been very supportive”.

Ali added: “It would all have been a different story had I not been wearing my helmet and I was lucky to escape any nerve damage. It makes you realise how many people are indebted to the air ambulance and the brilliant service they provide.

“I’d also like to thank everyone on Ward 16 Neurology at the Newcastle RVI who looked after me the staff there are amazing.

“I’d encourage anyone who was at the scene of the accident (on Monday, 21st April, 2014) to get in touch so I can give them a special thank you.”

Following his accident, Ali was transported to hospital by the Langwathby-based Pride of Cumbria air ambulance, which in August will have been in operation for 10 years. He was treated by paramedics Andy Dalton and Terry Sharpe.

A GNAAS spokesman said: “They are very keen to meet him. They are delighted to hear he is doing so well and amazed that he is hoping to compete again.”

For more information about the charity and to make a donation, call the GNAAS on 01325 487263 or visit its official website.