Bike ace Laverty to wed his Pippa days after 160mph smash
He's a different sort of wedding crasher - but it'll take more than a horrifying high-speed accident to stop Northern Ireland motorcycle ace Eugene Laverty from walking down the aisle next Monday.
The 29-year-old is due to tie the knot with long-term partner Pippa Morson in four days' time, as scheduled - despite a spectacular 160mph smash that left him in hospital.
He sustained a series of injuries in the crash during testing at Jerez in Spain last Thursday, including a broken wrist, dislocated shoulder, fractured collarbone, bruising and concussion.
The star of MotoGP, the premier class of motorcycle racing, has already had one operation on his left arm and now requires up to six weeks' treatment after what he described as the worst accident of his career.
Nevertheless, the popular Toomebridge sportsman is determined to live up to his promise to his 27-year-old fiancee that they will have the best day of their lives on December 7.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the Power Electronics Aspar rider revealed that his first thoughts turned to Pippa when he realised that he'd been injured.
"When I saw my hand after the accident, the wedding sprang into my mind," he said.
"I initially thought, 'Oh no,' followed quickly by, 'Where there's a will, there's a way'."
He added: "Then, for some reason, my stag party came into my head and I couldn't work out if I was going to it or coming from it!"
The groom-to-be also recalled the frightening moments immediately after he came off his bike.
"It all happened pretty quickly, but after I crashed I remember tumbling through the gravel trap," he said.
"I knew I was going to hit a tyre wall shortly afterwards and I was waiting for that to hurt, but the pain never came.
"I was knocked out on my way there - but it was the very sudden stop that did the damage, unfortunately.
"I don't remember anything apart from taking my leathers off in the medical centre and then being taken to hospital, but it was all a bit of a blur."
He added: "It was only afterwards, when I saw my black eyes and bust nose, that I realised how lucky I'd been. If I hadn't been knocked out, the damage would have been a lot worse because my body wouldn't have been so relaxed."
Laverty was flown from Seville to Barcelona, where a 3D scan discovered further damage and he was diagnosed with a small fracture of the first thoracic vertebra and a fracture of the coracoid aphophysis in his right shoulder.
He then underwent surgery at the hands of renowned surgeon Dr Xavier Mir and his medical team.
"I've had a few accidents, but this was my first operation and it's the first time I've been knocked out," said Laverty.
"But it was just a speed bump. I see another 10 years of racing ahead of me."
In 2009, his older brother John narrowly escaped death after a crash during the first free practice session for the British Superbike round at Oulton Park, England.
The former racer, now 33, sustained a broken pelvis, two broken ankles, a fractured right knee, broken ribs, two dislocated shoulders and fluid in his lungs.
"My brother was lucky to escape with his life and that was an eye-opener back then, but fear is just a mindset," former World Superbike rider Eugene said.
The couple, who live in Monaco, looked the picture of happiness in Belfast yesterday and, despite having his injured arm in a sling, Eugene was fitted out with a dashing navy Herbie Frogg suit at Bogart Menswear, while Pippa was choosing expensive jewellery from Lunn's.
It marks part of the final countdown to their three-night celebration of marriage at Dromoland Castle in Co Clare (below right), starting this Saturday.
Durham native Pippa - who has been meticulously planning the wedding for the past six months of their two-year engagement - spoke of her profound relief when she learned Eugene was going to be ok.
"I was out shopping in Nice when his brother John called to say Eugene had had an accident," she said.
"When I found out he was being rushed to Barcelona for an operation, I knew I had to get there.
"The only way I could manage that was to drive through the night, so I jumped into my car at 10pm and drove from Monaco to be by his side.
"I kept hoping he was going to be all right, because whenever anything like that happens you always think the worst.
"When John said he just had broken bones and no head injuries I was relieved - but I couldn't settle until I spoke to Eugene myself an hour later."
She arrived at the hospital at 9am ahead of a 90-minute operation, during which his fracture was fixed with a titanium plate.
"He went in for surgery about 2pm, had a bit of rest and then we jumped into the car at midnight to drive back to Monaco and got home around 6am," she said.
"It was hectic and it has definitely caught up on me now.
"Normally, before the wedding, the bride is eating clean and having lots of rest but that has all gone out the window for me."
The couple, who have been together for 10 years, first met at a party at the NEC Bike Show in Birmingham, where they were introduced by mutual friends.
Shortly afterwards, their first date was spent clubbing in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Eugene proposed in Paris in 2013 and the deal was sealed with a Ballerina one carat diamond ring set in platinum from Cartier.
Their wedding bands - which they'll exchange on Monday - are also from the renowned French jeweller.
During the ceremony, which will take place in front of 150 guests at the five-star stately home near Shannon in Ireland, Pippa will be wearing a classic ivory wedding dress that she chose from Pronovias in Barcelona.
The bridal party comprises two bridesmaids, four maids of honour, one flower girl, one best man, five groomsmen and two page boys.
Among those invited will be biker Stephen Thompson, who survived a terrifying smash at the North West 200 earlier this year and later lost part of an arm.
Pippa is relieved that Eugene's accident hasn't put the brakes on their wedding plans, but she added: "He will still be able to do the first dance, although he's not going to be able to throw himself about the dance floor as much as he wants to."
In fact, the only bad news for the newlyweds is that they've had to postpone their honeymoon until the new year.
"We were supposed to be heading to St Lucia on December 10, but we'll be flying to Barcelona instead because Eugene is scheduled to have follow-up treatment," said Pippa.
"To be honest, we're away so much it'll actually be great to spend some time at home."
Pippa, who left school after A levels to accompany her soon-to-be husband in travelling the world with his sport, said she doesn't expect him to hang up his leathers once they're married. "We're still young and it's fun travelling together," she said.
"I wouldn't have it any other way, but in the next three to four years we'll considering settling down and having children - ideally two or three."