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A close call, a moment of danger when life can hang in the balance.
I could die here. This is really serious.
A split second where the outcome could go either way.
Right, call 999 now!
The difference between disaster and survival.
You could see it on the faces
of the crew how life-threatening this was.
Why would you need to swim? They're supposed to still be on a boat.
These are the people that have been there and lived to tell the tale.
I thought she had died.
It's a day they'll never forget.
The day they had a close call.
Today on Close Calls,
a frantic young woman begs the emergency services for help.
The boyfriend has been kicked in the head by a horse.
And a helicopter rescue crew searching for a British scuba diver
missing off the Australian coast for 22 hours
spot something in the water.
That's definitely not a turtle. Let's go.
They're low on fuel, but they can't turn back now.
A rescue swimmer launches himself into the sea.
We have 20 minutes on scene to get him back to Townsville.
The clock was running.
Darlington, County Durham.
A man calls the emergency services from a field next to a stable yard.
19-year-old Matt has been slammed in the face by the horse's rear hooves.
The blow sent him flying across the field and crashing to the ground.
His girlfriend is close to hysterical.
Spring House Farm in County Durham, situated in 200 acres,
is a popular livery yard for horse lovers in the area.
Mum Jill Stephenson, her husband Phil are regulars at the stables.
That's because they spend a lot of
time looking after their daughter's horse, Nemo.
We babysit him while she's at University,
so it's a full-on hobby for us.
Caring for Nemo includes evenings and weekends,
which is why one Saturday the couple are out in the field checking over
their daughter's four-legged friend.
Phil and I had been off for the day to Harrogate Flower Show
and we just thought we'd call in on Nemo,
make sure that he was OK for the night.
As they lead Nemo back to the stable,
they spot a young couple they know well with their horse, Larry.
We saw Beth and Matty in the jumping field,
just messing around with Larry.
Beth is busy giving boyfriend Matt instructions.
We were laughing because they were trying to get Larry over one of the
jumps and she was telling him how to do it this way and that way.
And we were just walking through and shouted,
"Good night, we'll see you later."
As Jill and her husband are about to head home,
she takes a last look over her shoulder.
By chance, witnessing a horrific event.
Larry just literally went over the jump and he double-barrelled,
back feet came up and just knocked Matty about ten foot back over.
He just went hurtling through the air,
it was like something off a film, or something. It was unreal.
Jill watches as the spooked horse careers off down the field.
Matt crashes to the ground.
He just laid for...it seemed forever.
And I just thought that was it, he's gone.
And that bit will stay.
Straight away, Jill's husband phones 999.
But Matt can't talk to anyone right now.
He's in shock and his injuries are severe.
The day had started so differently for 19-year-old Matthew and his
girlfriend, Beth, who have been together now for two years.
Matt has always wanted to work in health care
and is hoping to train as a paramedic.
In his spare time, he works as a first responder
for North East Rescue And Medical Services.
It's kind of like an advanced first aider role.
We cover private events, so it is like night clubs, or sports events,
literally any form of event.
The more he was coming home and telling me more, I was like,
"I really want to do this." And we started going through kit together
and I was starting to learn all that and I was like,
"Oh, if this happened to someone, you would do this?"
I was like, "You know, why don't I just go out there and do it?"
She does. Switching careers from stable hand to first aider,
but still regularly riding her own horse, Larry.
Everyone loves him.
Everyone down the farm is like, "Oh, look it's Larry."
Always wants to be ridden, always wants to be jumped.
Soon as there is a jump out, he is like, "Yeah, let's go. Come on."
When Beth first invited Matt to the yard to meet Larry,
she was unaware he was keeping something under his hat.
He'd had riding lessons as a child.
She said, "Oh, do you want to get on and ride him?" "OK, then."
And he could actually ride, surprisingly.
I didn't think he would be able to ride, but he could.
The revelation helped seal the deal.
We just found out we had the same
interests, same hobbies, we were always on the go.
She always finds the funny side of things to make it
a lot lighter than what it actually is.
And then we just totally clicked, just...
I was like, "Yeah, he's the one."
The couple are inseparable and Matt is now a regular at the stables,
owned and run by Mike Hill.
I've known Beth and Matty for about three years.
We do get on very well.
And if there is any problems, they come to me and I'll sort them out.
That fateful Saturday evening,
the couple decide to stop off at the yard and spend some time
with Beth's horse.
What we do is lead him over the jumps and he loves it,
he is so good he just trots next to you.
Beth offers Matt a chance to lead
Larry over some small trotting poles.
He was doing things really well,
like the way he was jumping was good. So I was like, "OK then."
He leads Larry up to the first 10cm-high obstacle.
But something goes wrong.
Really we should have both gone over the middle of the job.
As I went to the jump, he kind of moved over to the left
which meant I had to go on the left-hand side of the wing,
which is the thing that holds the pole up.
And as they both got back together round the other side of the jump,
Larry got in front of Matt.
All I can remember is Larry bucking,
and then Matt getting thrown across the field.
And I just didn't know what to do.
Beth is horrified.
There was blood coming from his ear, his nose, his mouth.
Jill, who saw it all happen, runs over to help.
He just jumped up, and whether that was adrenaline or what,
I have no idea and he just started to run towards us.
Beth was screaming, "Matty!"
And then he just collapsed on all fours, like a dog,
and then he kind of looked up at us
and he was screaming, "I'm dying. Where's Beth?"
His eyes started sinking into the back of his head and then I thought,
this is a brain injury. This is not going to end well.
Because I thought that was probably
going to be the last time I was going to get to hold him, ever.
And I thought, that was it. That was him gone.
As Jill's husband, Phil, deals with the emergency services,
Beth finds all her medical training has deserted her.
You don't go into like medical mode when it happens to someone who
is that close to you, you sort of freeze and you don't know what to do
But Jill does.
In search of a first aid kit,
she runs to the home of stable manager Mike
and hammers on the door.
When there is a bang like that on your door,
you know there's something wrong.
And I was like, "Michael, you've got to come.
"You've got to come quick. It doesn't get any worse than this."
You could tell in her voice and the way that she was speaking
that it was going to be bad.
Mike grabs a first aid bag and runs.
I was trying to mentally prepare myself to what was I going to do.
I was worried that I would have to be saving his life.
In the field, Beth is trying to keep calm and is now talking with the
emergency call handler.
Beth is overcome with distress.
The call taker tries to reassure her.
Seconds later, Mike arrives at the field to find Matt back on his feet.
Once I actually saw Matty was up and walking around,
I was obviously relieved.
A lot of the blood was clotting around his face,
so he was in quite a mess.
I got to my gloves on and I managed to get some of the pads out of the
first aid kit to give him to hold on his face,
to stop any of the bleeding coming out.
Jill is relieved when Mike takes charge.
And I just remember at that point Michael being very calm with Matty,
and I think that's what it needed.
I think we were just all getting a bit hysterical by this point.
But Mike is hiding a very real fear.
It was always in the back of my mind, he has had a facial injury,
he has had an injury, a trauma to the head, anything could happen.
Later, surgeons at a specialist trauma centre are on stand-by as
Matt is rushed to hospital.
It's one of those injuries that makes your heart sink
when you hear that something like that is coming in.
They are going to have to piece him back together.
The Coral Sea, 12 miles off Australia's eastern coast.
A helicopter rescue crew think they've just spotted a lone British
diver who has been missing overnight.
His chances of survival were just...
Every minute, every hour that goes on, it's just less and less.
Below them they can just make out a flash of bright yellow in the sea
and what could be a figure in black clinging to it.
If it is the missing diver, he has been alone and adrift
in shark-infested waters for more than 22 hours.
We didn't know what his medical condition would be at the time.
A rescue swimmer jumps into the water and heads towards the figure.
He will have to work quickly.
The helicopter is running out of fuel.
Originally from Hayward in Greater Manchester,
engineer Les Brierley now lives over 10,000 miles away
in Mooloolaba on Australia's Sunshine Coast,
having emigrated as a young man.
I basically just wanted to live in a warmer climate.
I had worked in tropical environments overseas and getting
back to the grey skies of Manchester,
it was a bit of a sort of a depressing situation.
They used to call us Ten Pound Poms.
I was on the last planeload of immigrants that was paid for by the
Australian government, apparently.
Now 69 and semi retired,
Les has more time to enjoy his passion for sailing and diving and
has bought a yacht.
I took a big financial plunge and my house was mortgaged
against the boat.
I'll tell you what, it was like a shot in the arm for me.
I love it.
Every year, Les spends months sailing solo
along Australia's eastern coast visiting friends.
He keeps in regular contact with his long-time pal,
Jillian, back in Mooloolaba, just in case.
I met Les about ten years ago.
We started off with being sailing buddies.
Then I also started doing Les' book-keeping for him.
We argue like a married couple would, I suppose, you'd say
but, I mean, we're not a couple in that respect.
We are just good buddies and she's looked after me in a big way.
And on his journey up there,
he always checks in and lets me know where he is.
It's a Sunday in November and Les is sailing back after diving on the
Great Barrier Reef.
But he realises he is going to be passing another famous
dive site, the Yongala wreck.
The Yongala is a ship that sank in the early part of the 20th century.
And I had always thought, "Gee, I'd love to dive it."
As he arrives at the site, a dive boat is just leaving.
He has a word with the captain.
When I said I might have a quick look myself he said,
"Well, just be careful. There's a bit of a current running."
Les is an experienced diver,
but sometimes flouts the sport's fundamental rule
to always go with a buddy.
However, he does take precautions.
I have a box with a personal locator beacon in.
If ever I was swept away,
I could start the beacon off and one of those nice gentleman in a
helicopter would come along and get me.
Today as backup, Les e-mails Jillian
to tell her his plans and promises to call her when
he's back on board.
Anchoring the yacht, he gets into his dinghy.
What I thought I'd do is go over and go down the line.
If there was any current or anything like that, I would call it quits.
But when Les drops into the water, he gets a shock.
It was a heck of a current.
When I bounced back up, I was three or four metres or more behind the
dinghy and I thought, this isn't a good situation.
You know, and straightaway I thought, "Forget diving,
"let's get back to the dinghy."
But he can't.
The current's too strong.
He makes a grab for the safety line on the side of his dinghy.
My fingertips looked like they were nearly touching this line
and I was trying to get there.
Busted every vessel in my body.
I just couldn't make it to the line.
He gives up and instead tries to get back to his yacht.
But the current pulls him away from that as well.
The mast was getting smaller...
I knew I was in the middle of the Coral Sea.
There is no-one around. It's just a really desolate part of the world.
I'm in trouble.
Les decides he has only one option left,
to set off his personal locator beacon.
I had the box in my hand, out of the water.
And I opened the box and the bloody box was empty!
Devastated, he remembers taking it out earlier
to check for water damage,
but he forgot to put it back.
It's a game changer.
It was probably the worst moment of my life.
His only hope now is Jillian.
It's 3:30pm when she reads Les' message saying
he is diving the Yongala wreck.
"If I don't contact you by 5pm, try calling me.
"I should be back on board by 3pm."
I just knew that something was not good.
Her anxiety turns to fear when five o'clock comes
and goes with no word from Les.
Minutes later she takes the decision to call the coastguard
and report him missing at sea.
A search operation is immediately launched.
Unaware of this, Les is losing hope.
Just thinking, this is looking like it's the end.
And you know, my chances aren't good.
A helicopter rescue team think they have spotted Les in the water.
But they are low on fuel.
The clock was running.
We didn't know what his medical condition would be at the time
and we have 20 minutes on scene to get him back to Townsville.
Darlington, County Durham.
Emergency services have received the 999 call from a farm stables.
19-year-old Matt received a blow to the face from the hooves of his
Beth witnessed the whole horrifying episode.
His eyes started sinking into the back of his head and then I thought,
"This is a brain injury, this is not going to end well."
Matt is rushed to North Tees Hospital
and immediately sent for scans.
They show no signs of serious head, neck or brain injury.
But he does have multiple facial fractures.
He is transferred to the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough,
a specialist local trauma centre,
where surgeon Richard Langford makes an initial assessment
of his injuries.
It was quite obvious that the nose and the upper part of his face had
been displaced and his nose was shortened and it was turned upwards.
So that when you looked at him from the front,
you were looking straight up his nostril.
Matt has further CT scans to give Richard a clearer idea
of the bone fractures.
The 3-D reconstruction makes grim viewing.
So the fractures start up at this level, at the top of his nose.
They run down through the eye sockets and then down either side,
between the top jaw and the cheekbones and again on this side,
between the top jaw and the cheekbones.
And the whole top jaw and the teeth have been pushed
backwards and downwards.
The fractures in the lower jaw are running through the chin here.
And if I just rotate round,
you can see the fractures going through the chin still.
That joint should be there.
And this joint should be there.
So both of those joints have been knocked out of the correct position
and broken. It also shows that his top jaw was split in half.
Matt's first real memory of the incident is waking up the next day
in a hospital ward.
I remember asking what had happened.
I kind of knew what had happened,
but without knowing, if that makes sense.
I knew I'd been kicked, but I don't know how, or anything like that.
So I did ask again what had happened.
At first I thought I'd just dislocated my jaw.
It all felt really tight, but I could kind of move it slightly.
So I just presumed I had maybe dislocated it or something like that
until one of the surgeons came up and explained what injuries had
actually happened to me.
Richard also explains to Matt how they will access the broken bones in
his face to be able to prepare them.
We decided the best approach was to do a sort of scalping sort of
incision, which is an incision that goes from in the front of the ear on
one side to in front of the ear on the other side,
over the top of the scalp.
And by bringing that all the way forwards,
we can expose the top of the nose and the forehead,
and we can also expose the jaw joint on the left-hand side,
which we decided that we were going to have to fix.
There was a lot of risks with the left side of my face, he said,
potentially could be weakened by it.
So I could have had paralysis of the left side.
That put me right on edge. It really did put me on edge.
I think from then on I was panicking a lot about the surgery.
Matt is worried he may never be able to pursue his dream
of becoming a paramedic.
The night before his surgery, Beth stays at his bedside.
She stayed really late on that one night,
to try and talk me through it.
And just say that everything will be fine.
Matt is on the operating table for six hours.
It's an anxious wait for Beth.
We got a phone call off the hospital
saying he was back up on the ward and
I was like... I've never ever driven so fast to the hospital.
I was, like... I was there so quick.
First thing, she came and put her arms around me
to make sure I was still there, if that makes sense!
The surgery goes according to plan.
Matt's face is pinned back together with multiple plates on his chin,
jaw, and nose.
Arch bars are wired onto his teeth and screws hold the jaw
joints in place.
His scalp is held together by clips.
Later that day, Matt is allowed to see his face in a mirror for the
first time since the accident.
To be honest it wasn't as bad as I thought.
Because I think I was expecting like external cuts
and everything like that, where really it wasn't.
I think I had two tiny little cuts on my chin, but nothing externally.
It was all internal, so...
The only lasting damage is that bit there.
I don't know if you can see that bit, maybe.
And the same on that side, as well.
They're the only things that you can see, really.
Just two days after his operation and a week after the accident,
Matt is sent home.
Some weeks later he has made a full recovery.
And not long after that, he gets the news he's been hoping for.
He's been accepted at university to train as a paramedic.
Matt was the victim of a freak accident,
something he couldn't have foreseen.
But sometimes an unwise last-minute change of plan that hasn't been
thought through can lead to a series
of events with potentially tragic consequences.
In the Coral Sea, off Australia's eastern coast,
69-year-old British diver Les Brierley has been swept away
from his yacht by strong currents.
He has now been in the water for 15 hours and is drifting further and
further out to sea.
A search has been launched after his friend Jillian reported him missing.
The worst time for me was about nine o'clock that night
when he said they had found Les' boat and they had found
Les' dinghy and there was no sight of Les.
Through the night, Les sees several large ships in the distance,
but is unable to attract attention.
I'm drifting into the shipping lanes,
but if these ships aren't seeing me,
I'm just going to get mowed down.
Then I thought, I can't just float here and wait to die,
I've got to try and swim towards shore.
But as dawn approaches, he begins to face up to his situation.
This is probably the end for me.
I had just finished a really big
renovation of my house and I had done all
that work just before I left and I thought I'll never get to sit on the
patio and have a beer and watch the sun go down.
But now the sun is coming up over the Coral Sea.
It's going to be a hot day and his ordeal is taking its toll on Les.
I didn't wish it upon myself but I decided by then
that a shark might not be a bad way to go.
But there is hope.
Unknown to Les, the Townsville air rescue team,
made up of pilot Nick Kelly,
flight paramedic David Singleton and crew members,
Mark Bryant and Alan Griffiths
have been scouring the sea since first light.
He had been in the water for 22 hours
and his chances of survival were just...
Every minute, every hour that goes on, it's just less and less.
Footage filmed from their chopper shows clear skies and calm water.
But it's a big sea to search.
There was at least four or five times that we spotted something and
we turned around to check it out and it is sort of like,
"Ah, that's just a turtle, or it is a large clump of seaweed."
Frustrated and fearful for the diver's safety,
the crew know they are low on fuel.
Soon they will have to turn back.
Around that area it's fairly well-known as one of the biggest
tiger shark breeding grounds in the world.
We were worried that he'd start drifting into that.
But just as the crew complete the final turn of their search pattern,
paramedic David spots something in the water.
Whatever it was was being rhythmic.
Like it was, you could see the back of his bright yellow flippers just
starting to clear the water.
As the adrenaline builds, you realise that this is it.
This is the guy we have been looking for.
It was awesome to turn the aircraft around at the right time,
I could actually see him and see him in the water waving to us.
That's definitely not a turtle. Let's go.
They are against the clock.
And we had to work quickly because we were coming back for fuel for a
reason. We didn't know what his medical condition would be at the
time and we had 20 minutes on scene to get him back to Townsville,
so that's why the clock was running.
Alan, wearing a helmet camera, is winched down towards Les.
This is his footage.
Alan swims towards the stricken driver.
I thought, "How is he going to be when I get there?"
Les, who greeted me with a handshake.
It was loud but I said to him, "Do you want a lift?"
He was so overwhelmed at the time.
You could see the relief in his face.
To be met with a handshake. I was just...
You are tough. You're a tough guy.
I had tears in my eyes. I was overwhelmed.
I could hardly speak to the guy when he came down,
I was so overcome by it, by that emotion.
And I just reached out and shook his hand.
It was just a big relief, a big relief.
But the rescue isn't going to be easy.
Got to go.
Alan puts a special rescue harness around Les to hoist him up
in seated position.
He has been floating for so long, if blood suddenly rushes to his legs,
he could pass out.
The helicopter stands off while Alan works.
But then he signals to the crew, they are ready to be winched up.
The rescue is not over until he is at the hospital.
There's a lot of things that could have been wrong.
He's been all wound up for 22 hours and he has just been out there,
it is quite an ordeal.
What happens when that wears off? The adrenaline fades away a little.
But when he gets to the helicopter, Les surprises paramedic David.
I expected him to be severely ill and he wasn't.
He was the complete opposite of that.
He was fit, well.
His vital signs checked out.
He just had a little bit of sunburn on his face.
That was probably the worst thing that he had.
For 22 hours in the water, it's not a bad effort.
I mean it was tremendously emotional.
And all I think, "Thank God it's all over."
How great it is that these guys have made this massive effort to find me.
It was like a very humbling experience, if you like, you know.
Les is very lucky to have been found.
And under the circumstances in the waters up here,
he's very lucky that he has all his limbs.
Les is flown to nearby Townsville Hospital
where doctors discover the only affects of his time in the water
are mild hypothermia and low blood pressure.
Jillian is relieved to hear the news.
We found him and he's OK.
They were the words I needed to hear very quickly
and there were a few tears then.
Later, she visits Les in hospital.
And he just looked at me and he said, "Jillian, you saved my life."
I will be forever grateful.
You know, I mean, she was my lifeline. She didn't let me down.
That's what you need, a friend you can truly rely on in a crisis.
Join us next time for more stories from people who have had
extraordinary close calls.