I ‘died’ twice in ambulance after forgetting my seatbelt

Sarah Irving with the fire crew that saved her life
Sarah Irving with the fire crew that saved her life
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A YOUNG woman who “died” twice following a horrific car accident is urging other drivers to always remember to fasten their seatbelts.

Sarah Irving suffered double broken collarbones, broken ribs, broken vertebrae in her back and also damaged her hip after crashing into a railway bridge in her hometown of Murieston last October.

The 19-year-old had to be resuscitated twice during the ambulance trip to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after her heart stopped beating.

Now she is taking part in a road safety initiative alongside Lothian and Borders Police in the hope that others will avoid a similar fate.

Sarah said: “I was driving when my phone went off, so I pulled over to answer it. It was on the other side of the car so I had to unfasten my seatbelt to reach it, and when I drove off I forgot to put it back on.

“A few minutes later when I turned a corner I had to swerve out of the way of another car, and that’s when I crashed.

“The next thing I remember I was lying on my arm behind the drivers seat, with my hips between the two front seats and my legs on the passenger seat. The police were already there so I must have been unconscious for five or ten minutes. I had to be cut out of the car by the fire brigade.”

Sarah spent the next ten days in hospital, where she had two operations on her shoulders and had to be referred to the heart and lung board because the damage to her ribs meant her lungs wouldn’t inflate properly.

“My hip is still as swollen now as it was then, and I’m being referred to a specialist,” she said. “I will have to take medication for the rest of my life as I reacted badly to some of the drugs I was given in hospital and I am also scheduled to see a psychologist as I have flashbacks and nightmares.”

On Friday and Saturday, Sarah will be at the McArthur Glen outlet in Livingston helping police show shoppers how necessary seatbelts are to drivers and passengers.

She added: “The crash has turned my life upside down and put the people close to me through hell. My partner can’t even sleep in the same bed as me any more because nightmares about the accident cause me to scream and lash out during the night.

“If I can make a difference to just one person, and make sure they don’t have to go through what I did, that would be such a big thing for me.

“Some of my friends never used to wear seatbelts – they all do now, every trip. Accidents can happen any time – I was only driving two miles to work. When I show people a picture of the aftermath of the crash and ask them how fast they think I was driving, most usually guess 60 or 70mph. I was only doing 30mph and look what happened to me, all because of one mistake.”

Along with the police, representatives from the fire brigade and the ambulance service will also be providing demonstrations of how essential seatbelts can be for road safety.

Inspector Stephen Innes said: “This is a great chance for us to attract the attention of hundreds of shoppers with our road safety message. We just want to remind them that road conditions change with the seasons and you have to consider this when you’re out and about.”