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Injured Armagh haulier back on the road to raise funds for Air Ambulance

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From right, Robert Phoenix, Robert’s wife Pamela and stepson Daryl McCamnon

From right, Robert Phoenix, Robert’s wife Pamela and stepson Daryl McCamnon

From right, Robert Phoenix, Robert’s wife Pamela and stepson Daryl McCamnon

A Co Armagh man raising money for the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance charity has told how the group made a "huge difference" to his recovery following a terrible accident.

Haulier Robert Phoenix was driving his lorry outside Coagh in Co Tyrone on April 4 last year when the vehicle overturned on a hill.

The 52-year-old, from outside Armagh, was knocked unconscious and left with terrible injuries, including head wounds, three broken ribs and a broken collarbone.

"I heard the creaking of the trailer, looked in the mirror and could see the wheels lifting. I said to myself, 'This is going to hurt'," Robert explained.

"The next thing I remember, I could hear people talking to me and then the noise of the Air Ambulance.

"I was just glad initially that I actually regained consciousness.

"My next thought was to get out, but I was stuck in the lorry and had to wait for the fire brigade to come.

"It could have been 15 minutes from the accident happening to the time that it arrived. It's hard to say.

"I wasn't aware of my injuries at the time, but I knew there was something wrong.

"The fire brigade had to smash the front window and two of them had to carry me out.

The doctor from the Air Ambulance was then with me.

"They got me comfortable and then I was fit to travel to Craigavon hospital in the ordinary ambulance."

Letting wife Pamela (44) know he was okay was Robert's first priority, but the father of Melissa (29) and step-father of Daryl McCamnon (28) admitted his next thought concerned the nature of his injuries.

"I was scared because I knew what the accident was like and the severity of it," he said.

"But I was actually more relieved to be in good hands at that point, I think.

"They kept me for 12 days in Craigavon and released me on that Friday before they brought me back in on Sunday for the operation.

"I'm still in recovery and have been for this last six months.

"I have been doing physio once a week. However, I've still numbness all across the top of the shoulder.

"It is hard because I have always been working or driving and never been sick before now.

"It is just coming up on a year and I'm just getting a bit of mobility back now.

"I was a keen fisherman and I couldn't do that for the last while because I was right-handed and that's where my injury was.

"I'm just starting back into the fly fishing now, which is great and really positive in my recovery."

To raise money for the charity, Robert and step-son Daryl are taking part in the British Bangers Road Trip challenge.

The annual event will see them, along with 50 other drivers from the UK, traversing western Europe in up to 10 days. Robert and Daryl will start their journey in Belfast on May 9.

They will travel through France, Germany, Switzerland and Andorra before finally ending up at Benidorm in Spain.

"Everyone picks their own charity. It wasn't originally meant for me to be doing this, but then Daryl suggested I come with him and do it for the Air Ambulance," Robert said.

"We will be doing the car up like the helicopter, with all the signs and the red Air Ambulance symbol. I am really looking forward to it.

"We have raised about £1,000 at the moment overall for the charity.

"Until you need them, you don't actually appreciate them.

"It made a lot of difference to my recovery because they were able to assess me and give me medication there and then on the spot.

"You couldn't praise them enough because of the work they do. It has saved the lives of so many people."

Kerry Anderson, head of fundraising at the Air Ambulance NI, praised Robert for his "fantastic" fundraising.

"We really look forward to following his journey. We encourage everyone to offer him support as he completes his drive," she said.

To support Robert's fundraising journey visit justgiving.com/ fundraising/robert-phoenix

Belfast Telegraph