Injured farm worker's agonising crawl for help after 30ft fall in mobile blackspot
PUBLISHED: 17:42 19 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:54 20 December 2019
A farm adviser who shattered his skull, thigh and wrist after plunging 30ft onto the concrete floor of a potato store has described his agonising crawl for help after failing to get a mobile phone signal.
Tim Kitson, 46, is recovering at his home in Martham, near Great Yarmouth, after the horrifying accident at a farm near Cromer.
Now he wants to use his experience to highlight the urgent need for better mobile coverage in rural areas where isolated lone workers may be unable to raise the alarm in a life-or-death emergency.
The potato consultant was inspecting a storage building from an elevated walkway when it gave way beneath his feet - knocking him unconscious as he fell to the ground, where he was left with five fractures to his skull, two breaks in his femur, broken bones in his wrist, a cracked rib and damage to his hip.
"The next thing I remember is coming around, laying on the floor," he said. "I was looking down at myself in a bit of a mess. My foot was pointing the wrong way, I couldn't see out of one eye and when I lifted my arm the wrist was just dangling. But my first thought was 'I am alive' and I don't want to be here.
"I took my phone out to make the emergency phone call, which should connect you to any available network.
"But there was no reception, no signal, nothing. The thought then was that just because people know I am here, they don't necessarily know how long I will be here so no-one will be coming to find me. Very quickly I realised this is not where I wanted to be, so I'm going to get myself out of here."
His excruciating escape involved dragging himself through four connected 40ft buildings to get outside.
"The adrenaline kicked in," he said. "Dragging yourself across the floor through four doors and trying to open door handles with one arm and one leg is painful, but the pain is nothing when you're thinking 'I could have died in here'.
"I got myself back out, laid out on the floor outside and screamed at the top of my voice. Within a few minutes, the other three people on the farm came out and found me and called the air ambulance."
After the alarm was raised, the East Anglian Air Ambulance was called, but following paramedics' initial assessment of Mr Kitson's head injuries he was taken by land to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
His leg has been pinned, he has very limited movement in his left wrist, and he still suffers dizziness and a loss of taste and smell as a result of his head injuries. But he feels "incredibly, incredibly lucky" to have survived his ordeal without more severe damage.
The Health and Safety Executive is investigating the accident, which happened on November 1.
Mr Kitson said his experience proved why mobile phone services needed urgent improvement in the hardest-to-reach areas of Norfolk's countryside.
"Norfolk and rural counties are horrendously poor for mobile phone service, and it is a necessity," he said.
"It is not just the coverage, it is the strength of the signal. Surely you should be able to catch a 999 signal from anywhere. There shouldn't be ifs and buts - it could be life or death. It is a lonely job we work in and the power of communication is massive."
Mr Kitson is also hoping to encourage technology developers to design a mobile app which could allow lone workers to register their site location and set a timer running for how long they expect to be working there - which would generate an automatic emergency alert message to colleagues if the timer is not stopped within the expected visit time.
- Anyone who may be able to help with the development of a lone worker app can contact Mr Kitson on email@example.com.