Over the edge

In one horrific moment we were plunging to earth

Published by: Polly Taylor
Published on: 24th August 2010

There was barely any room left in the crammed car boot, but somehow I managed to squeeze the cool box containing our picnic in between the deck chairs and beach ball.
Feeling the warm sun beating down, I smiled.
Perfect beach weather!
‘Shall I put the roof down?’ I asked my wife Dot, 58, climbing into the driving seat of my bright blue BMW Z3 convertible.
‘Why not?’ she beamed, fastening her seatbelt and slipping on her sunnies.
We couldn’t have asked for a better bank holiday to meet our daughters Harriet, 26, Kerry, 23, and Zoë, 21, at the seaside in Borth, Wales.
It would take us three hours to get there, but in this weather the journey would fly by.
Pulling out of the driveway, I waved to our friends Roz and Mike waiting in their car for us to follow them. ‘Ready when you are,’ I called happily.
As we cruised along with the warm breeze whipping through our hair, I couldn’t help grinning.
Climbing higher into the mountains, we turned on to a narrow, tree-lined road running alongside a steep ravine. The sound of water gushing over the rocks filled the air.
Suddenly… My car lurched forward. With a screech, it veered violently to the left. What the…?!
Gripping the wheel, I slammed on the brakes. Trees, road, bushes, flew past in a blur. Fight as I might, I couldn’t control the car.
There was the crash barrier! And… oh God, I remembered the sheer drop on the other side.
‘Bill, look out!’ Dot shrieked at me.
Bang! Clipping the back of a parked car, we corkscrewed through the air.
Metal grinded against metal as we landed – teetering on top of
the crash barrier.
Like that scene from The Italian Job, one wrong move and we’d plummet 300ft into the rocky ravine below. I prayed the weight in the boot would win over…
We lurched forwards. ‘No!’ I screamed. Grabbing Dot’s hand, I knew we were about to fall.
With a terrifying jolt, the car dived nose-first into the ravine, hurtling towards the bottom. With the roof down, we were bound to be thrown from the car.
We crashed into rocks, plummeted through trees.
Oh God, we’re going to die! In that split second, my life really did flash before my eyes – twice.
My grandchildren, my beautiful daughters,
the day I first met Dot…
Reaching over, I took her hand.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I gasped. ‘I don’t think we’re going to survive this.’
No answer. Her eyes were closed. ‘Dot?’ I gasped.
We briefly came to a halt, but then the branches beneath us collapsed and with a bump we were freefalling again.
I felt like I was trapped in a bubble, detached from what was happening. So this was how I was going to die…
A final flip – then a bone-shattering crash.
I’d expected to lose consciousness, hit my head and pass out. But I could still hear the rushing water.
Looking around, I realised we’d ended up in the plunge pool of a waterfall – and the car was sinking fast! Water gushed in.
How on earth was I still alive?
No time to think. I needed to get out, get to Dot, or any minute now she’d drown.
Reaching for my seatbelt, I fumbled with the clasp.
Water covered my hands, my fingers slid uselessly over the buckle. Frustration and fear grew.
Again and again, I tried.
Come on! Click. Yes! The clasp sprung open.
Gasping, I pulled myself from the wreckage. Must free Dot!
Lifting her under the arms, she felt like she weighed nothing as I yanked her from the car. Must be the adrenaline. 
Dripping wet, I lay Dot down on to a nearby rock and hugged her limp body. Please be all right…
She squeezed me back, and her eyes fluttered open!
‘Hang in there, love,’ I soothed. ‘Someone will be here soon.’
Then I heard a distant shout.
‘Bill? Dot?’
‘We’re down here,’ I yelled, just able to make out Mike at the top of the cliff.
‘Help’s on its way!’ he yelled.
Thank God!
Clinging to each other, we waited for our ordeal to be over. Despite the sun, Dot had turned cold. ‘B-Bill…’ she shivered.
‘It’s all right, love,’ I soothed, holding her close. ‘Not long now.’
As she closed her eyes once again, I noticed how deathly pale she’d grown. I’d thought she was just in shock, but what if she had internal injuries?
Finally, the mountain rescue team arrived. Strapping us on to stretchers, they got a crane to lift us into a waiting helicopter.
Whisking us to Bangor hospital, the rescuers told us they’d never seen anyone survive such a fall.
‘Someone up there must like you,’ one of the team smiled.
Too right! I suffered a broken collarbone and Dot was in shock, but escaped with minor cuts and bruises. It was a miracle things weren’t a lot worse…
Two months on, and investigators still don’t know what caused it. We’ve fully recovered, and are trying to put the accident behind us. The only difference is Dot insists she does the driving from now on!
Bill Bradley, 58, Ludlow, Shropshire