Monday 18 December 2017

Racer's first thought when he crashed was to get a message to his wife Karen that he was still alive

Stock image: Ryan Farquhar
Stock image: Ryan Farquhar

Stephanie Bell

Ryan Farquhar's first thought when he crashed at the North West 200 was to get a message to his wife Karen that he was still alive.

In an incredible coincidence, the rider crashed right beside his wife's cousin, and despite his terrible injuries he was able to ask her to ring an anxious Karen, who had seen the shocking accident on the big screen back in the paddock.

Ryan came off his bike during the third lap of the Supertwins race, which he was leading. He was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital for surgery and is being kept sedated in intensive care until today.

Last night close friend Jill McWilliams - wife of fellow racer Jeremy McWilliams - revealed how Karen was anxiously waiting for news in the paddock when her cousin called to say she had been speaking to Ryan and he was all right.

"We were both watching the race on the big screen and I knew right away that it was Ryan," said Jill.

"The red flags didn't go up for some time, and when that happens your first thought is that it is not as bad as it seems.

"Jeremy was able to go on and do the next lap before the race was stopped.

"There is an amazing pastoral care team at the North West, and Karen was able to go directly to one of them - a lady called Jan who had an earpiece in - and get news. Jan was brilliant. She kept Karen informed.

"We were happy that the air ambulance was there. It was just great to have it there and know he was being airlifted.

"Karen really appreciated having Jan there because you want to know everything.

"And because she was in the paddock and Ryan was down the road, it was difficult.

"Then she got the phone call from her cousin and we knew that Ryan was sitting up and conscious.

"As soon as he crashed and saw Karen's cousin, Ryan asked her to phone Karen and let her and the children know that he was all right.

"I can't speak for Karen, but for me as a wife and mother, that would have been amazing just to know that at least he was alive and okay."

The flying doctors Fred McSorley and David McManus were thankfully on hand to give immediate medical assistance to the injured rider and to offer his traumatised wife support.

Ryan was sedated at the roadside as a precaution, and David was able to reassure Ryan's anxious partner that it was standard procedure.

"Obviously Karen was shook up," Jill said. "They have two gorgeous girls - Keeley, who is in primary seven and old enough to know something was wrong, and little Mia, who is six. I know myself I would have been praying to God that everything would be all right."

Jill revealed that get well messages had poured in from right around the world for the injured sportsman.

She said that Karen was extremely grateful for all of the support she and her husband had received since the accident.

Ryan (40) is believed to have suffered chest and pelvic injuries in the horror crash. He came through a successful operation late on Thursday night and is now in a stable condition.

Doctors said they were very happy with his progress and are optimistic that he will make a full recovery.

Yesterday Ryan's KMR Kawasaki team announced it intended to compete in today's Supertwin race as scheduled.

"The texts, phone calls and messages through social media have come in from all over the world because Ryan has a big circle of friends, and Karen really appreciates all the support," Jill said.

"The team decided to go ahead with their race because they know it is what Ryan would have wanted.

"He would have been gutted and devastated if they had cancelled."

The other rider who was involved in the crash, Dan Cooper, suffered two dislocated shoulders but was back at the paddock yesterday.

The Englishman said he was still not certain what caused the crash, partly because "it all happened so fast".

He told the BBC: "I just remember coming out of Metropole and thinking: 'Right, I'm going to make a move now coming into Black Hill'.

"I got right up behind Ryan - as close as I could to get a good run - and then he just lost the front and I had nowhere to go.

"I just remember hitting something. I don't know if it was him or the bike.

"I just hit something and then I was flying through the air. That was it - I don't remember anything, really.

"It all happened so quickly. I wasn't knocked out or anything. It just all happened so quickly. The next thing I was stood up, walking off the track. When you're following someone that close, you can't avoid it. It happens and then in a split-second you're down."

Giving his thoughts on what could have happened, Dan added: "I think he had just hit the front and I had quite a good pace and I think he realised he had to push to try and break me. We were both riding on the limit sort of thing.

"It's just one of those things. When you ride on the limit, you push that little bit too much and it's enough for him to lose the front. It's a fine edge and I think he went over that edge, unfortunately."

The Englishman also sent his best wishes to the fellow rider and his family.

"It's not nice," he said. "Hopefully he's okay. I hope he pulls through and I'm sure he will. He's a fighter, isn't he? Fingers crossed for him and thoughts with his family."

While Dan will not be fit to ride in today's races, the accident has not put him off the North West 200 and he will definitely return.

"We will be back - we've got to get ready now for the TT, so we'll just go home and recover; hopefully dad won't make me work on Monday," he said.

"I'll hopefully lay up and get these shoulders working a bit more. If I'd have only done the one shoulder I'd have probably raced, but with two gone it's just not happening."

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