Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's Joe Hendron 'lucky not to be killed' in collision with van

Dr Joe Hendron at his home in Belfast yesterday
Dr Joe Hendron at his home in Belfast yesterday
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A veteran Northern Ireland politician has told of the terrifying moment when he was "thrown up in the air" after being struck by a van during a collision in which he could have died.

Dr Joe Hendron, a former SDLP MP, MLA and Belfast city councillor, said he believed he had "a very lucky escape" because he wasn't killed or seriously injured as a result of the accident which happened while he was crossing a road.

The 86-year-old, who famously unseated Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in the 1992 Westminster contest for the West Belfast seat, also said he was probably partly to blame for what happened.

"I was thoroughly enjoying my walk when I decided to cross a little lane in front of a van that was trying to get onto the main road," he said.

"I'm not sure whether I'd gone one step or two when the driver put his foot on the accelerator and the van came out at speed and threw me into the middle of the road.

"The driver braked immediately when he saw me.

"I landed upside down on my left shoulder, which took my weight and damaged a nerve, but it could have been much worse."

He added: "I was lucky that I wasn't killed. I had a very lucky escape. My head could've been smashed on the road or I could've been paralysed from the neck down."

The accident happened on Tuesday, June 11 at around 3.45pm when Mr Hendron, who built up cross-community respect during his lengthy and illustrious political career, was walking along Balmoral Avenue near his home in south Belfast.

The father-of-four said he was returning home after a trip into Belfast city centre when disaster struck.

But he admitted that he doesn't feel entirely blameless for the incident.

"People will wonder why I didn't walk round the back of the van and that's a fair question," said Mr Hendron. "I would normally do that but I couldn't see the back of his vehicle because it was hidden by a hedge - and, obviously, I assumed the driver saw me."

He added: "There's a lot of traffic on Balmoral Avenue and he was obviously waiting to get a clear run... but when I walked in front of him never in a thousand years did I think I was walking into trouble."

The grandfather-of-seven recalled the scary moments immediately after the collision when he was "lying on the road for a good while as people gathered around me".

"There was an off-duty ambulance man who happened to be in the area and a young female medical student as well and they made sure I'd a makeshift collar around my neck just in case my neck was broken," he said. "My collar bone is damaged and out of place but no bones were broken. I didn't have to spend a night in hospital.

"I'm attending physiotherapy in Musgrave Park Hospital and I'm getting stronger every day."

The former politician insisted that he's "fine now" and he said that everyone was "very kind" to him when he was taken to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital by ambulance.

"An X-ray showed my collarbone is pushed up - you can actually feel it and that's permanent - but the surgeon explained that I didn't need surgery," he said. "I'm lucky to be alive.

"My walking isn't just as good as it was but I'm very thankful that I got away with a very nasty shoulder and bad bruising for 10 days."

Mr Hendron said the van driver, who was "badly shaken himself because he just didn't see me", visited him at home the day after the collision.

"He was very kind," he said. "It was an accident and I actually regret not walking round the back of the van."

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