Hotel plunge Northern Ireland fan Ben on mend in France as fund is set up to help with bills
A Belfast man who has been in hospital in France since suffering a fall while following Northern Ireland at Euro 2016 has told how he is desperate to walk again - and can't wait to see his mum.
Ben Crossley is lucky to be alive after the catastrophic fall from a third-floor hotel window in Lyon and could soon be on his way home with the help of the public.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from his hospital bed, Ben said he was in a lot of pain but bolstered by the well-wishes of people all over the world, and is hoping to get home as soon as possible.
Ben (23) sustained horrendous injuries including smashing his teeth and multiple fractures to his face so severe that he had to undergo reconstructive surgery.
He also suffered two fractured eye sockets, a broken hand, shattered kneecap and sprained ankle.
He remains in a stable condition.
Ben had made the journey from Wisconsin in the US, where he has coached football at Sun Prairie Soccer Club since August 2014, to cheer on Northern Ireland with a group of friends.
The former Lagan College pupil managed to get three weeks off work to fly directly to Paris and was intending to see his family while he was across this side of the pond, but the accident meant he was unable to visit. A life-long football fan and proud member of the Green and White Army, he cheered on the team against Poland in the 1-0 defeat, but was delighted with the 2-0 victory over Ukraine.
Ben's injuries mean he does not remember the accident, but he is still coming to terms with the horror of the fall on June 17.
"I've been attending Irish League and international matches at Windsor Park with my dad since I was about seven or eight," said Ben, a graduate in sport business management from Sheffield Hallam University.
"I am getting stronger every day but I am frustrated and tired, and my jaw and mouth are still in a lot of pain."
Parents Rodney and Lucille and sister Rebecca have been visiting Ben to keep his spirits up, but said they would like to have him back in Belfast as soon as possible.
French doctors say Ben is well enough to fly home via air ambulance, where he will continue to be treated by the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Belfast.
He had taken out the necessary travel insurance for his trip, however extra money is needed for extensive dental work and physiotherapy that might not be available on the NHS when he returns.
So, to boost funds, his friends have rallied and set up a gofundme.com page which already has reached over £1,000 in donations.
"I am fit to fly but I need to have my leg fully supported," he explained.
"So an air ambulance might be the only suitable option.
"When I get home I'll be going into the RVH for further rehab on my leg I think, and they've said I should be able to walk on it in about five weeks.
"My mum is looking forward to having me back and it will be great to see her and the rest of my family and friends that are at home. I would like to thank those who have sent their well- wishes, donations and support.
"My family and I are really humbled and touched by all the support we have received from around the world," he added.
Any surplus donations that exceed the cost of Ben's medical expenses will be donated to charity.
- To donate visit gofundme.com/fundforben