Wolterton tree fall women urged by policeman to ‘buy a lottery ticket’ after dodging death

The ash tree that fell on a car being driven by two demonstrators on their way to Wolterton Hall tex

The ash tree that fell on a car being driven by two demonstrators on their way to Wolterton Hall textile and costume fair. Photo: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

Two Norfolk women who dodged death when a tree fell on their car were urged by an amazed policeman to 'go and buy some lottery tickets' after the extraordinary incident.

Helen Howes and Heather Hasthorpe somehow escaped with minor injuries when a large ash tree smashed into their car - nicknamed the Red Baroness - as they travelled to demonstrate their textile work on Saturday morning.

The work colleagues, who share a studio at Raveningham, near Diss, were driving past the Saracen's Head en route to Wolterton Hall Costume and Textile Fair when their journey came to a shocking and sudden halt.

In a split second, the red VW Passat estate was in a nearby hedge with a large bough through the windscreen and the roof flattened like a crumpled drinks can.

But - in a situation that Saracen's Head owner Tim Elwes labelled 'miraculous' - Mrs Hasthorpe, from Catfield, near Stalham, escaped with just a scratch, and Mrs Howes, from Raveningham, needed surgery on an arm injury.

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Mrs Howes said: 'We were driving along peacefully and suddenly, bang, we were in the hedge and there was a giant piece of tree in the car.

'People in the pub were eating their breakfast and somebody said a tree had hit the car. They rang the ambulance before coming out and it arrived in 10 minutes.

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'A policeman arrived and said me and Heather needed to go and buy lottery tickets because normally he would be picking pieces of people out of accidents like that, not talking to them.'

She added: 'I thought I'd broken my leg but it's just bruised. But my hand was badly cut and the tree nicked a tendon on my left arm. I had to have quite extensive plastic surgery to get glass out of my fingers.'

Writing on her Facebook page, Mrs Hasthorpe said: 'I was so lucky to escape with just a covering of glass shards.

'My friend was not quite so lucky, but after a day in A&E was sent home with a mended ripped tendon in her hand. The branch on the right crushed the steering wheel that she was holding and the one on the left shot down inside the car and tore off the inside door panel and bruised her leg but it could have been so much worse.'

Mrs Howes' husband, John Stormes, said it was 'incredible' that Mrs Hasthorpe was 'completely unscathed'.

The tree, which wrote off the car, fell at 8.45am on Saturday after a prolonged period of rain and strong winds.

Mr Elwes said: 'We were preparing breakfast for clients staying at the hotel. I was in the kitchen. I took something out to the dining room and a lady said 'can you call 999'?

'I could see that the tree had fallen and the lady said it had hit a car. I saw the car and was on the phone immediately.'

He added: 'The ambulance was here very quickly, closely followed by the police. It was extraordinary. All of the roots of the tree have come up - and it's a big tree. It fell literally as they were driving past.'

Mr Elwes said: 'They are so incredibly lucky: it's miraculous that nothing more serious happened.'

The tree was on the Wolterton Hall estate owned by Lord and Lady Walpole. Estate staff were soon on scene with chainsaws and ropes to cut up and remove it.

Mrs Howes said her friend had returned yesterday to the costume and textile fair to 'support somebody else', which was 'very brave'.

And she added that she would like a souvenir of her near miss, saying: 'I'd like to get a piece of the wood. My husband is a wood turner and he might be able to make something of it.

'Seeing that wood come through the screen was one of the scariest moments of my life. It gave me nightmares last night.'

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