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Doctor tells cyclist that mobile phone may have saved him from paralysis in bus crash

James Wilkinson, a bus driver himself, had been on a cyclist awareness course on same day as crash in Gloucestershire

A doctor has told a Gloucestershire cyclist that his mobile phone may have helped prevent him from being paralysed when he was hit by a bus as it crashed into a house in a village on the outskirts of Cheltenham.

James Wilkinson, aged 39, was one of four people injured in the incident in Prestbury at 6.10pm on Friday evening, reports Gloucestershire Live.

He was thrown against the windscreen of the bus and narrowly avoided being crushed against the house when the vehicle hit it.

Mr Wilkinson sustained bruising to his head and right hand, lost a large amount of skin and suffered a chipped vertebra as a result of the crash.

But a doctor who treated him in hospital told him that he could have been left permanently paralysed due to a spinal injury had his mobile phone, which was in his back pocket, not taken the brunt of the impact.

He told Gloucestershire Live; “Not many cyclists get hit by a bus and survive, let alone walk again on the same night.”

Earlier that day, Mr Wilkinson, who has recently qualified as a buss driver for Stagecoach, had been on a training course with his employers.

He said: “It was about dealing with how bus drivers should look out for cyclists,” he said. “It is such an odd thing.”

A former heavy drinker and smoker, the father-of-two competed in his first Ironman event in 2012 and had hoped to represent Great Britain in November’s Middle Distance Triathlon European Championships in November, although that is now in doubt due to his injuries.

Speaking about the crash, he said: “I felt this massive whack from behind. My first thought was, ‘Who is that hitting me?’

“I smashed down on the floor. I saw the bus smash into the building.

“I saw a lady come out of the bus screaming, with her arm bleeding. I couldn’t feel my legs and there was a lot of pain in my back.

“I hit my head as I landed. Only a day or two before, I had looked in the mirror and seen my helmet strap was loose,” which led to him tightening it.

“A nice lady came over and held my hand, the one that wasn’t hurting.

“I was really scared. I thought I was paralysed. I couldn’t move at all. All my body went numb.

“I thought, ‘I am not going to play with my boys again.’ I was lying there crying.”

“I think I lost consciousness,” he continued. “I don’t remember being on the bus windscreen.

“Police told me I was lucky not to have been on the windscreen when the bus hit the house.

“The woman who did the scan at hospital told me my phone protected the lower part of my spine. She said I could have been paralysed.”

Mr Wilkinson, who was discharged from hospital later that evening and is now continuing his recovery at home, added: “I wasn’t able to walk until about midnight. I felt so lucky.”

Police are continuing to investigate the crash, which involved a bus operated by Cheltenham-based Marchants Coaches.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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