When Ballymoney man Nigel Kinnaird had a serious accident during a hillclimb in 2013, he made it his mission to payback as many of the people responsible for his recovery as possible.
Having been trapped inside his car which caught fire, he required treatment from a number of departments within the health service, all of whom he believes he owes his life to.
Nigel explained what happened: “I used to compete in motorsport in the Northern Ireland Hillclimb championships and had done quite well at it. I was taking part in one at Carncastle, just outside Larne on 21st June 2013, everything was good, the weather conditions were perfect. However, I pushed a bit too hard, I lost control of the car and crashed. The car rolled and went on fire and I was trapped in the car.”
Luckily for Nigel the marshall who was on hand happened to be an off duty fireman.
“The guy who was marshalling at the point where I crashed was an off duty fireman called Alistair Carmichael and if wasnt for that fact, I would have died.
“I was driving an Mark 1 Fiesta XR2, its like a special stage rally car. I was strapped in and had all the protective gear on. I was knocked out but came round as the car came to a stop. I got the flash of the fire and the noise of it igniting but there was no panic at any stage. It didn’t seem to last too long, it seemed to be over in a matter of seconds.
“Next thing I heard was a voice saying ‘Are you alright in there’ and I just shouted ‘Get me out, get me out’
The next thing I was out on the roadside, I couldnt see anything because my eyelashes were burnt, all I could see was shapes, there was no definition. I knew I had crashed but I didnt know the severity of the accident, they just kept saying your suit did its job. My race suit was fire retardent and if I hadnt had it on things could have been so much worse. I didnt see the crash helmet but they told me it had actually melted.
“I was taken to Antrim Area hospital first to A&E and then moved from there to Intensive Care in the Royal Victoria where I was ventilated for four days. I don’t remember anything about those four days, things were touch and go for a bit. They reckoned I was right out of time.I was then moved to the Burns Unit where I stayed for three weeks. I had 12% burns and 4& were third degree burns so I had different treatment and skin grafts there. Apart from the burns I had no other injuries, I didn’t have a broken bone or a cut so I guess in that respect I was fortunate.”
As Nigel recovered, more details about why the car went on fire emerged. “I had done all the hard work and was through the twisty section and was coming on to the straight a bit too hard. We think I clipped the ban and it went nose over tail first instead of going sideways. As a result of that the bonnet came off and there’s a wee reservoir sits on top of the servo for the brakes and it came off and that allowed the brake fluid to fall over the manifold and it caught fire. because it was a road going class all the interior was still in the car and the car was 31 years of age so it was all plastic and it was the melting plastic and the fumes from the plastic which created the heat and did the damage to me.
Once home Nigel decided his day’s of racing were over.”I had too close a call to continue so sold up whatever bits and pieces I could and the money I raised went back to the hospital, to the Burns Unit, to Intensive Care, to A&E at Antrim Area and to St. John’s Ambulance.
“I then contacted the Fire Service to tell them what Alistair Carmichael had done and he received a Commendation for saving me. I was very honoured to be able to go along on the day he was presented with it.”
Nigel was fortunate to have the help of several good friends throughout this difficult time, something he is very grateful for.
“There were a couple of chaps who helped me a lot when I was in hospital and afterwards. I have been friends with Derek Brogan and his wife Clare for some time, they were very good to me from the accident happened. Hugh Francis Dillon was also great. The day of the crash I had taken my father with me and it was the first event he had ever been to.
“When the accident happened and I was taken away in an ambulance my father was left standing wondering what to do or where to go. Hugh Francis he put his arm round my father and brought him home to Ballymoney and along with another friend he went and picked up the car and brought everything back so I didn’t have anything else to worry about. I really couldn’t have done it without the help of all these people.
“My recovery is still an ongoing and thats two years down the line as I attend the Royal every six months, however, although I no longer race I still go along, I made so many good friends in the sport, you just can’t totally walk away.”