‘I feel useless and insignificant’ - Costessey man speaks out more than two years after 11,000-volt electric shock

John Howes at home at Costessey, slowly recovering from being electrocuted. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

John Howes at home at Costessey, slowly recovering from being electrocuted. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

A Costessey man has spoken today of the daily struggle he faces two years after he came into contact with a power line carrying 11,000 volts of electricity.

Sgt Derek Rutter (left) and PC Mark Brooks. Picture: NORFOLK POLICE

Sgt Derek Rutter (left) and PC Mark Brooks. Picture: NORFOLK POLICE - Credit: Archant

Jon Howes was working for Norwich firm TW Page on farmland at Felmingham, in April 2014, when the drilling rig he was working on came into contact with the power line.

The massive shock threw him to the ground and dangerously close to the still live line. His life was only saved by the swift actions of two police officers who dragged him to safety despite great risk to themselves.

Now, speaking in his first full interview since TW Page and North Walsham-based LF Papworth were fined after admitting health and safety failings to do with the incident, Mr Howes told of his daily struggle and how his life has changed. He also wants to thank his family and friends who have supported him since he was hurt.

'I now feel useless and insignificant,' said the 50-year-old of The Street, Costessey.

'I remember up to about lunchtime that day, but not anything after we got out of the van. My next memory is coming to and hearing rotor blades going, and I was in the helicopter, but my first real memory was being in Broomfield Hospital, in Chelmsford.'

Mr Howes suffered extensive burns all over his body from the shock, including a large area of his scalp being burnt off. And as well as undergoing multiple skin grafts, Mr Howes also lost two toes.

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He stayed in hospital in Essex for five and half weeks, in intensive care and the burns unit, before it was thought he was strong enough to move closer to home.

He was taken to the Norfolk and Norfolk University Hospital, before being moved to the Colman Hospital.

'That was until I was considered strong enough to have a 10-hour operation to reconstruct my skull,' he said.

But Mr Howes' ordeal wasn't even close to over, as two or three days after the operation he was told he had a serious infection which was being treated as meningitis.

'After all that I was in hospital about six months. I always tried to remain upbeat, but when I had the infection was my worst time.

'I didn't want to talk, people would come to see me and I didn't want to talk to them, it was horrible.'

Even now, although back at home, Mr Howes needs help and has nurses visit him. He needs sticks to walk, has deep vein thrombosis in his right leg and a constant painful pins and needles feeling in his hands.

'The hardest thing is not being able to do things,' he said. 'There was nothing I couldn't turn my hand to before, I built all the furniture, but now I can't go to the shop, I can't walk, I can't do anything.

'I used to walk down to the shop and think I'd take the long way home because I just loved being outdoors.

'Now I look back at some of the situations I've been in since, when I've fallen and been in pools of blood and worse.'

Before he was injured, Mr Howes was fit and active, taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge eight times, cycling 100 miles a week and taking part in charity cycle rides for East Coast Children's Hospice.

Now, he says he sits at home, and can see the roadworks outside his window.

'I watch the guys out there and I want to be out there working with them.

'My life now is a series of appointments, that's my routine. I used to work five days a week but now I can't walk, I can't carry things, I go over sometimes.'

He added he felt abandoned by TW Page, and that although they had apologised in court, he would have expected them to be more supportive.

'They just don't know how badly I'm injured and what it's done to me. It's taken everything I used to enjoy doing.

'But I want to express my sincere thanks to my friends and family, and they know who they are.'

Looking forward, Mr Howes said he would like to think his mobility would improve, but that doctors could not guarantee it would, although he still has regular rehabilitation sessions.

'Walking without the sticks again would be ideal, and I would like that sensation back in my hands,' he said.

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