NW200 crash victim Violet McAfee to bike round course
A woman who was critically injured in a freak accident at the North West 200 two years ago is to ride around the course at the weekend on a bike.
But Violet McAfee will be on the back of a tandem rather than a super-charged motorcycle.
The plucky Portrush woman, who's still recovering from the extensive injuries her left leg suffered two years ago, is returning to the circuit where her life nearly ended to join 400 other cyclists for a charity fundraiser on Sunday.
The money will go towards the new Northern Ireland air ambulance championed by motorcycling medic Dr John Hinds.
The flying doctor died in an accident two months after going to help Violet, who was watching the NW200 from the garden of a friend's home in Portstewart when she was hit by one of three motorbikes which crashed.
Violet can't remember anything about the accident itself, but does recall seeing Dr Hinds before the races started.
"I can recall thinking that he was going so well and handling his bike so brilliantly that he should have been a racer," she said.
Violet (46) never got the chance to thank Dr Hinds for what he did for her, but she did join the campaign for the introduction of an air ambulance to Northern Ireland in his memory.
On Sunday, Violet who was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast by an Irish Coastguard helicopter, will be part of the Causeway Cycling Club's fundraiser, the NW200 Air Ambulance Sportive.
She added: "I've already been out on the tandem with the chairman of the Causeway Club, Robert Downes, for a wee spin. But hundreds of people will be going a lot further than me come Sunday.
"There are three different courses - 40 miles, 75 miles and 80 miles which will take in the spectacular scenery of the north coast, with the longer one going over Torr Head."
Violet is confining herself to the NW200 course itself, but even that won't be easy given what happened in 2015.
"I've been around most of the course in a car and at first I wasn't sure that I was doing the right thing," she added.
"I may not remember the accident but I've seen pictures of it and the tracks of the bike which hit me are still clearly visible where it all went wrong."
Violet was invited back to the races last year as a guest, but did a 'dry run' to an evening practice.
"I wanted to know how I would feel, but as soon as I heard the bikes the tears started. A policeman offered to get me out but I stayed on. I knew that if I didn't overcome my fears I would always have them," she added.
"I plan to be there again this year and I have tickets for one of the grandstands. I will never watch the races from a garden again."
Violet, who also sustained head injuries in the accident, swapped the metal cage around her leg for a large surgical boot three months ago but she doesn't have to wear it 24/7.
Motorcycling hero Alastair Seeley and the NW200's chief, Mervyn White, will be at the pits to wish the cyclists well.
Robert Downes said the Causeway Cycling Club are excited about the Sportive and added: "It's going to be a top class event."