THREE women hit by a fallen tree in Southwick three weeks ago have spoken of their ‘lucky’ escape.
Mel Humphreys, Viv Bailey and Annette Williams were walking their dogs in Southwick Recreation Ground on October 21 when the lombardy poplar tree fell out of the blue.
All three have fractures in their back and Viv also broke her ribs. They are now recovering at home, having been released from hospital.
“Thank God we are all sitting here, it could have been a damn site worse. You can’t let it rule your life. It is an accident, a one off,” said Viv, 45, of The Gardens, Southwick.
Mel, 43, who also lives in The Gardens, said they had all had a lot of support and were grateful to everyone who helped on the day. She also thanked members of The New Shoreham-by-Sea Facebook group and Adur Furniture Network for providing her with a bed.
Without it, she could have faced months in Royal Sussex County Hospital as a torn muscle combined with her multiple sclerosis mean she cannot manage stairs at the moment.
“I asked for a bed so I could get home and within 20 minutes, it had been organised,” said Mel. “The bed got me home from hospital and back with my family. I am overwhelmed with the support we have had.”
The three friends, who met while dog walking on the rec around eight months ago, had been walking slowly around the park and had already passed the trees twice.
Mel was in her power trike wheelchair with her dog Jasper, Viv was with her 15-month-old dog Hugo and Annette Williams, 36, who lives off Old Shoreham Road, Southwick, was walking her dog, Magic.
Viv said: “We were laughing at Magic playing with the leaves when I heard a crack and said ‘what has Hugo got’. The next minute that was it.”
She thought her dog had something like a plastic bottle in his mouth but the cracking sound was actually the tree.
Mel said: “The next thing the tree was on top of us. It was very quick. Between the noise and the tree falling, it was not more than a second.”
Annette was able to crawl out. She explained: “I could feel the tree crushing on my face. Your instincts take over.
“To start with, I wasn’t sure if the other two were under there or not, it just happened so quickly.
“The pain didn’t really kick in. I thought I was okay. I was going to go home. In my eyes I was on my feet and I wasn’t going to bother.”
Luckily, she did make herself known to ambulance crew and was taken to Worthing Hospital, where it was found she had fractures in her back.
The other two were rescued by Shoreham firefighters, who needed to move Mel first to get to Viv.
Mel said: “I had the tree resting on my hip and the back of the chair. It had hit my head on the way down. Viv was next to me on the floor, so I was trying to put my hand through to hold her hand.
“I remember looking up and seeing the tree. It all doesn’t seem real still but we lived to tell the tale.”
Viv was under the tree for around three quarters of an hour but remembers very little.
“I was in and out of consciousness,” she said. “I remember going forward and being smashed across the back and I know I couldn’t breathe.
“I managed to telephone my husband. He told me he climbed through and said to me ‘it’s all right’, I remember that. Then the next thing I knew there was an ambulance man there, not my husband.
“It is like you are looking from the outside in. It is quite surreal.”
Viv was in Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton until last Tuesday. She has been told it will take six to eight months to get back to normal, as long as the fracture remains stable.
Mel has the added difficulties of MS and said it had set off muscle spasms. She was told it could take six months for her torn muscle to heal.
She was allowed home on Friday, once the bed was in place so that she did not have to use the stairs. She even had a surprise visitor at the weekend, her sister Selena, who came over from Canada to see how she is.
She said: “I would like to say a massive thank you to all the emergency services and everyone who has clubbed together to make what was a horrible experience a little bit better.”
Mel said it wouldn’t stop her going back to the park and Viv said she would walk around it when she felt strongter.
But Annette said she would never going by those trees again. “I don’t even want to go back to the park,” she added.