A BIKER who survived a freak accident at the notorious black spot has praised the emergency services for saving his life.
Talking publicly about the horror accident for the first time, Keith Davey, 54, from Mount Murray, Santon, has also voiced concern at the suitability of safety barriers at the crash site at Devil’s Elbow on the Peel to Kirk Michael coast road.
His 600cc Yamaha Streetfighter somersaulted over the low fence, catapulting him over the 100-foot cliff.
Keith, who’d just quit a job at Agrimark delivering beer kegs, was left in a coma with multiple rib fractures, a broken pelvis, a punctured lung, a broken shoulder with his back broken in four places plus a shattered neck vertebrae and a broken femur.
The accident happened on Easter Monday.
‘It was such a lovely day, and being a bank holiday I wanted to get out in the lovely Manx scenery, so I joined a ride-out around the island,’ Keith recalled.
He and friends met up at the Sea Terminal and set off for a day’s ride.
Fellow biker on the day and TT paramedic Jeremy ‘Jezz’ Hill was riding behind Keith as he rode on the Peel to Kirk Michael road.
‘I was about 300 yards behind Keith as he approached the Devil’s Elbow. He was doing about 30 to 40 miles per hour. I noticed he suddenly started to wobble a bit. He was on the brakes, his wheels locked up and the front tyre appeared to dig into the lip at the side of the road, causing man and bike to somersault over the edge.’
His reaction to seeing the accident was, according to Jezz, ‘not printable’.
Meanwhile, Jezz got hold of another member of the ride out group – Mike Terry, also a TT marshal.
Jezz told Mike that Keith had been flung like a rag doll over the cliff.
Both men tried to reach the casualty, who was hidden by the dense undergrowth.
‘It was really dangerous,’ said Jezz. ‘We just slipped into TT marshals mode and slid down on our backs.’
At the foot of the cliff Jezz found the bike upside down in a stream.
‘My first thought was that Keith was in the water with the bike on top of him, so I dived in and started to search. I couldn’t find him underwater so I began to have a look around. It was so quiet it really worried me, but then I turned to my left and under a bush, in the only dry place around, I noticed a human leg bent double.
‘He was incredibly lucky not to have landed in the stream.’
Keith was unconscious, lying on his back with his left leg tucked underneath him.
‘We feared the worse,’ said Jezz. ‘I just held his head and spoke to him while Mike scrambled back up to direct the emergency services.’
Meanwhile, in Ramsey ambulance station paramedics Norman Brew and Sharon Hotchkiss had just received a call to go to a motorcycle accident.
Norman said: ‘We were told to head towards Peel on the coast road, near the Devil’s Elbow. Even on blue lights that’s going to take us 15 minutes.’
At 2.30pm a coastguard call went through to HMS Ganett in Prestwick, Scotland, which scrambled a Sea King helicopter.
Shortly after that call paramedics Norman and Sharon reached the scene.
Norman said: ‘It was a really inaccessible spot. Jezz and Mike had done a fantastic job which really made our work easier.
‘The casualty was breathing but in a state of shock,’ he added.
Jezz said: ‘He woke up but was confused. At one point Keith tried to take off his helmet – a definite no-no.’
Because of his position, trapped between the base of cliff and the stream, even with a team of paramedics, TT marshals and police, it was extremely difficult to get him on to the spinal board. Eventually they managed by sliding him on feet first.
In the meantime, fire crews from Douglas and Kirk Michael had attended and were busy clearing the way by cutting off branches and preparing a rope rescue and helicopter basket.
He was then carried up the cliff to a more secure position on a sheep track about half way up, where they could assess his injuries more thoroughly.
Norman said: ‘There were no visible injuries apart from abrasions to his hands and head. He was having difficulty breathing and we suspected a punctured lung – a potentially fatal injury if left untreated. So we put a cannula in his chest to allow the air to escape.
‘His blood pressure was still very low so we gave him some fluids and tried to stop him crashing whilst we waited for the helicopter.’
It was at this point that a decision was made to cancel the helicopter, which was still 25 minutes away.
Norman said: ‘With the patient so unstable and getting a bit cold I wasn’t happy about the delay, so we took the decision to rope lift him up and into the ambulance.
‘One of the firemen drove the ambulance to Noble’s which was fantastic because it allowed Sharon and I to concentrate on the patient during the journey. With someone so sick, there is an awful lot to do en route.
‘When we arrived at A&E, Keith was very unstable, he kept crashing and people were running round looking for bloods. We just crossed our fingers and hoped that he would pull through.
‘It was one of those where he might, or he might not.’
For Keith, the entire event is a blank, although he does remember ‘something black’ rise up in front of him as he approached the first bend at the Devil’s Elbow.
The next thing he recalls is coming out of a coma 20 days later and a nurse saying: ‘Now we’re not going to try and kill ourselves again, are we?’
Fast forward to today and although he still has three more operations and is in considerable pain, Keith considers himself extremely lucky to be alive and grateful to the emergency services.
He said: ‘I would just like to thanks to all the emergency services, Jezz and Mike, doctors, nurses, physio, to all of you I can’t say enough. I’ve never been so grateful, it’s quite emotional really. Once I am fully fit I will be doing a sponsored event to raise money for the paramedics.’
Speaking about his safety concerns, he added: ‘I do think that there should be some better fencing at this notorious blackspot, it’s a big concern for me. If a new safety fence saved just one life or the sort of pain I am having to endure daily then it would be worth it.’
Paramedic Norman Brew concluded: ‘This rescue was such a success because of the unified and controlled way the various emergency services worked together.
‘In our job, nothing pleases you more than a result like Keith’s. Making a difference is exactly why we do the job.’
Asked about the safety fence, a spokesman for the Department of Infrastructure said: ‘We investigate all accidents as a matter of course and we take appropriate action where there is a sound basis to do so and where we think that future accidents could be prevented.’