North West 200 crash fan Violet going back to watch race
A woman who cheated death after being critically injured standing in a garden while watching the North West 200 last year has said she is hoping to find the courage to return to the event next month.
Brave Violet McAfee, who was in the garden of a friend's house when three bikes crashed during the opening race last year, told the Belfast Telegraph she wants to beat her fear of going back to the event.
The 44-year-old Portrush civil servant was left critically ill with head and leg injuries after a motorbike crashed at over 100mph and catapulted through the air into a driveway along the course where Violet was watching the action.
Now, almost a year on, she has made a good recovery. However, she still has to wear a metal brace on her leg, which was shattered in the high-speed collision. In a few weeks she will find out if she needs a bone graft or whether the brace can be removed.
Violet has no memory of the horrific accident on May 16 - which witnesses described as a "war zone" with motorbikes, debris and riders scattered along Station Road in Portstewart.
Earlier this week she bravely confronted her emotional scars by returning to the scene of the collision. The three-bike accident unfolded during the Superstock race. English rider Dean Harrison crashed at 100mph on a stretch of track between the York Corner and Mill Road roundabout.
Remarkably, despite being hurled from his bike, he was unhurt. Two racers who were travelling behind were also thrown from their machines.
Stephen Thompson (40) from Crumlin was seriously hurt, while Horst Saiger from Liechtenstein suffered minor injuries.
Violet admitted to the Belfast Telegraph she was going to wait until the week of this year's North West 200 to decide if she was up to facing the dramatic sights and roaring sounds of speeding machines.
If she does go to the races, she has ruled out being a spectator at Station Road, where the horror smash almost cost her life.
Instead, she will attend the VIP tent area thanks to an invite from race organisers.
And there is one competitor in particular she will be cheering on - Saiger - the man whose bike hit her. Saiger will also be making an emotional return. He was injured himself, and when Violet was well enough he arranged to meet her last year.
Co Antrim man Thompson was seriously injured, subsequently losing an arm, and has not been able to race since.
He previously told how he didn't think he would attend the races as a spectator this year but Violet - who met him in hospital last year - said if they were both back at the famous north coast course this year she would love to have a reunion. After last year's crash, Violet was air-lifted to hospital and initially was described as being in a "critical" condition.
She is due to get a CT scan at Musgrave Hospital on May 5, when she will find out if there will have to be a bone graft on her leg or get the cage off.
"Hopefully it will be cage off," said Violet.
She added: "I am very mobile now. I am still using a stick but I try not to use it.
"As long as I am not walking too far I can go quite well without it. I got back to work full-time and I'm happy with that, and I can drive as long as it is not long distances." She said her emotions were running high in the build-up to this year's race week.
"I'm hoping to attend it this year and in my mind, yes, I am definitely wanting to attend, I just have to wait and see if it is still that way on the day.
"Even my sister has said: 'Well, you don't know how you are going to feel until the day of the North West'.
"I will leave it until the last minute and see how I feel. I have been given tickets to attend the VIP tent and my twin sister Elizabeth is actually going to come along with me.
"If it does turn out that I can't handle it, well I will have gone and tried because I don't want to have that fear. The fact that I have no memory of the accident whatsoever, some people say, that is what could bring it right back.
"Well, I don't want to stand away from it, I don't want to have that fear."
Speaking about being back at Station Road again this week, she explained she had driven past the scene "quickly" before but it felt strange to be standing at the spot where the motorbike hit her.
"You can still see, where I was standing, the skid-marks of the bike where it had landed.
"Just looking at that does make you really think about what took place, even though I don't remember it.
"Even going round from Portrush to Portstewart and you can see where they are putting in the preparations for this year's race, the one thing I did look at was where the helicopter landed on the golf course to get me. I was quite in awe of that."
Going back to the scene, she said: "My heart was in my mouth a bit and I thought: 'I could just not be here'. It was emotional from the point of view when you think what could have happened, but thinking that way just brings you down."
Violet lives in Portrush and has grown up watching the races. Her father used to take her to Carnalridge Primary School to watch the bikes fly past.
She said she loved motorbikes and although she has been a pillion passenger, she has never ridden one.
Last year she spoke out against people who suggested road racing should be banned after her accident, and she still feels that way. Violet said: "The speed of the bikes is absolutely horrendous but that is part and parcel of what they do and they thoroughly enjoy it.
"To ban it... no, I don't think so, no."
Violet had also been in touch with Thompson.
Stephen said recently he will be unable to go as a spectator because it's "just too difficult".
"I am better staying away from racing at the minute because it kills me to be there and not take part.
"Racing is in me and I just hope that one day I will be able to get back to it," he said.