Norfolk’s miracle man who cheated death five times wins £18,000 payout

PUBLISHED: 09:53 12 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:53 12 February 2013

Basil and Edna Fryett. Picture: Ian Burt

Basil and Edna Fryett. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

As her husband fought for his life following a terrifying accident with a log cutter, Edna Fryett was told five times that he was dying. But nearly 20 months after the horrifying accident which nearly ended his life her husband Basil is still alive to tell the tale.

They told me he was dying five times

“They can’t get me through them pearly gates yet,” said Basil Fryett.

He smiled as he listened to his wife Edna telling of his fight for life.

“They’ve told me ‘he’s dying’ five times since the accident,” said Edna, Basil’s wife of more than 50 years.

Yesterday, the couple said they were pleased with the compensation awarded by the court.

“I’m quite surprised,” said Mr Fryett, lying in the special bed installed in the lounge of the couple’s Great Massingham home to help him rest comfortably.

“Not as surprised as the Mrs, mind, but I’m still quite surprised. I didn’t expect it.”

Apart from a new mattress, Mrs Fryett said they intended to save the money for when her husband became more mobile and needed anything.

She clearly remembers June 21, 2011, when her son Jason drove her to Addenbrooke’s after Mr Fryett was flown there by air ambulance, after suffering terrible injuries. A woman doctor took them aside to a family room when they arrived.

“She said, ‘He’s in theatre, the only thing I can do is come and update you every hour if we’ve got any news,’” she said.

“When Jason said, ‘Can I ask you what his chances are?’ she said, ‘If he makes it through the operation, he’ll be a very lucky man.’”

Mr Fryett spent 14 weeks in Addenbrooke’s. They put him on life support and gave him drugs to paralyse him, to help his pelvis start to heal. His memory of the accident is still sharp – despite the incredible traumas his body has overcome since it happened.

“We had a load of wood. I was splitting it up and that got blocked up the other side, so I leaned over the splitter to clear it out,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“But as I came back, I got my boiler suit sleeve caught on the lever that started the machine up and I couldn’t get off it.”

As Mr Fryett began to recover, he was moved to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn. Discharged five weeks later, he began to suffer complications. “I was in and out of there like a yo-yo,” he said.

Infections and an abcess followed. In September, when he was admitted with blood clots on both his lungs, doctors told Mrs Fryett he was unlikely to survive.

“They said, ‘he’s dying, he’s not responding to treatment,’” she said. “I was crying.”

When Mr Fryett asked his wife why she was in tears, she said she had a cold. She went outside and phoned their five children.

With one lung blocked and the other 80pc blocked, Mrs Fryett was asked whether she wanted her husband to be resuscitated if his organs packed up. “The doctor said I know what I want you to say but the decision’s yours,” she said.

Mr Fryett said he agreed with her decision to let him slip away had the worst happened. But those pearly gates swung shut without him again.

And yesterday the retired digger driver, army cook and chef was thinking about getting back out on his mobility scooter – and using a speed gun loaned to the Massingham Speedwatch group to deter drivers from tearing through the village.

Yesterday, the Great Massingham pensioner was awarded £18,000 in compensation by a judge as the log-splitting machine did not have adequate safety guard equipment.

Mr Fryett was working on the log-splitting machine at Sedgeford Road, Docking, when the pocket of his overall got caught in the machinery and he was dragged in, Norwich Crown Court heard.

Mr Fryett, who was 73 at the time of the accident in June 2011, suffered a broken leg and hip, a crushed pelvis and significant internal injuries and had to spend five weeks in hospital.

The court heard in an impact statement from his wife, Edna, that she now had to act as a carer for Mr Fryett, who now had to spend a lot of his time in bed, and the family had spent £6,000 on hospital expenses alone.

Ruth Barber, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safey Executive, told the court that if the log-splitter had been fitted with safety equipment which cost just a couple of hundred pounds the accident could have been prevented.

Ms Barber said that Mr Fryett had been working on an informal basis for Kevin Crompton, who ran a gardening and landscape business after he bought the wood-producing site in Docking from Mr Fryett’s brother.

She said that Mr Fryett used to work on an informal basis for three days a week.

She said on the day of the accident he had been splitting logs when a delivery driver arrived and he had sat on the machinery to talk to the driver when his pocket caught on the machinery and he was dragged in.

Ms Barber said the driver was able to turn off the machine but not before Mr Fryett suffered injury.

Kevin Crompton, of Northcote, Docking, and his company admitted failing to prevent access to a dangerous moving part of machinery.

Recorder Michael Evans accepted that the accident was caused through carelessness rather than any wilful neglect. “It was a small business, although that does not alleviate the responsibility to work in a safe environment.”

He also said that the accident had not been covered by any employer’s liability insurance, and so he said he wanted any penalty paid to be in the form of compensation to Mr Fryett rather than go in costs and fines. and ordered Mr Crompton and his business to pay a total of £18,000, in compensation of which just over £10,000 to be paid by March 11 and the rest to be paid over a three-year period.

Richard Wood, for Mr Crompton, said that he deeply regretted what had happened.

“It never occurred to Mr Crompton or Mr Fryett that this machinery presented any kind of danger at all.”

He said that Mr Crompton was a one-man-band business and he took issue that he was an employer of Mr Fryett.

“He tried to give him something to do by allowing him on to the site to use the land and log-splitter for his own purposes. This was an informal arrangement.”

He said that Mr Crompton was a man of good character who had no problems with the health and safety executive in the past.

“He is a decent man just trying to earn a modest living.”

After the hearing, HSE inspector Martin Kneebone said: “Mr Fryett has suffered life-changing injuries because the log-splitter he was using had not been guarded to the appropriate standard. The cost of fitting the right controls would have been in the order of a few hundred pounds.

“Until this happened, Mr Fryett was a fit, healthy active man who was cutting five loads of logs a day for three days a week. He enjoyed a busy social life with his wife, but ever since has been confined to bed except for a few occasions when he has walked a few steps with the aid of a frame.

“Doctors told his wife on at least two occasions that he was unlikely to survive.

“He has pulled through but it will be a considerable time before the full extent of his recovery can be assessed.

“This incident was entirely preventable. A suitably positioned control device that had to be operated with two hands would have stopped this happening and he would not have been left with such dreadful injuries.”

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