Near Misses

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Updated April 30 2008

Jerry jumps from a 13-story bridge - click here for the  full picture

How many near fatal accidents has he survived?

Ever since he stepped off the end of a pier at the tender age of two, Jerry has had an eventful and life-affirming succession of near death experiences. Blessed with the good fortune to have survived more brushes with the Grim Reaper than the proverbial cat with nine lives, Jerry considers himself something of an expert on spotting life-threatening situations and throwing himself into them.

We asked Jerry whether speed or height was the key factor in most of his accidents

"Well, that's a good question. Excepting the two near drownings and the fire back in '92, I guess speed is the critical factor. Not just my own speed, either - I was only doing twenty when I hit the National Express coach back in '83, but it was doing a whopping 50 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone. I was dead lucky though - I was on my pushbike at the time, coming down a steep hill leading into a blind corner on the A5 in Bangor, North Wales, at 1.20 in the morning. The roads were pretty quiet then as a rule in Bangor; the Hollyhead to London National Express coach was the only thing moving in town. I have to say I was mildly inebriated, if I'd have been stone cold sober I'd have braked sooner, and that would have been fatal."

How was that, Jerry?

"I hit the coach - with fifty-five passengers on board - just between the nearside indicator and the front wheel, probably the softest part of the bodywork thereabouts. A moment earlier and I'd have been squished across the front grill - a moment later and I'd have been under the wheels. As it was, I made a dent the size of beer barrel in the side of the vehicle just behind the folding door - with my head!"

Were you okay?

"My first recollection after the accident was sitting on the road with what I thought was a mouthful of broken china. Took me a moment or two to work out that it was my teeth, and that I couldn't see a thing. Fortunately, someone wiped the blood from my eyes, and I could see the face of the coach driver over me. He was grey with shock, said I nearly gave him a heart attack... I was a little surprised too, to say the least. I'd broken my jaw, but a nice policeman turned up a moment later with a First Aid kit to sort me out and drive me up to the casualty department. They had to stitch me up without an anaesthetic on account of my state of intoxication, but the bike was OK - just a heart-shaped front wheel where it had hit the sill of the bus."

No lasting damage then?

"No, no lasting damage; although there was an unexpected twist to the tale. A month or two later I received a summons to appear at Caernarfon Magistrates Court, charged with 'reckless cycling'!"

Crime and Punishment, eh?

"Well, it had me worried for a while. I decided to plead guilty and not to risk the court appearance - I looked a bit scary in my student days, you see. I told them I was a penniless wretch, and they let me off with a £5 fine. Considering the repair bill for the coach, I think I got off lightly."

When was the last one?

When was the last one?  Did you give up cycling after that?

"No, not a bit of it - in fact, I spent a year cycling around the world with Janet on solo bikes, and I've toured in more than a dozen countries since without a single mishap until the Great Langcliff Tandem Disaster, when the brakes failed and we sailed over a cliff together in Yorkshire.  That was the last and potentially worst cycling accident.  Very gory, that.  Happened a while ago, actually, but hasn't put me of the tandem (though Janet won't ride it now)."

What was the longest drop?

We know you fell a fair distance at Langcliff, but was that the furthest ever fall, or have you survived a longer drop?

"I'll tell you a funny thing. The longest fall nearly occurred when I was completely unaware that it was there; I was walking on the golf course on Bangor Mountain at dusk on a nice summer evening with my girlfriend at the time when we came across a folly (you know, a architectural feature designed to look like a ruined tower on the skyline). Since it was only ten feet tall, and made of stone, I thought I'd climb it. I got to the top and swung my leg over, preparatory to dropping down the inside: I was looking back down at Jenny when I heard a ghostly train whistle behind me. Blow me! I was perched on the lip of a ventilation shaft for the Hollyhead to London railway, which tunnels through Bangor Mountain some four hundred feet below. If a train hadn't have been going through just then, I'd have dropped merrily into the shaft. Just goes to show, always look before you leap!"

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