Hitchin crash survivors and firefighters deliver powerful road safety message

PUBLISHED: 08:27 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:04 28 November 2017

Cutting open a car as part of the road safety demonstration at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett

Cutting open a car as part of the road safety demonstration at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett

Archant

Firefighters and two people they rescued from a fatal car crash gave a powerful presentation to students near Hitchin on the subject of road safety.

The road safety presentation at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett The road safety presentation at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett

Richard Woodstock and Leah Moore appeared with Hitchin firefighters and police at Princess Helena College, near Preston, on Wednesday as part of the fire service’s Driving Home For Christmas campaign.

It was the first time crews from Hitchin fire station had given a message in such a personal way – and students from Letchworth’s St Christopher School joined the Princess Helena pupils for the experience.

The presentation came days after Richard and Leah visited Hitchin fire station to thank the crew that rescued them from the crash on the A602 in August.

Their friend Linda Racca, a mother-of-five from Luton, was tragically killed in the crash.

Linda Racca. Picture: Herts police Linda Racca. Picture: Herts police

Richard said: “It was very important to Leah and me to visit the fire and rescue team that attended our accident.

“We were very surprised that they do not get more visitors or thank yous from people they have helped, which made our visit so special to the both of us.

“We will be eternally grateful for the amazing work these guys do. Although our good friend Linda was killed in our accident, we know that the guys did their absolute best to help and could not have done more – and that was extremely important for us to get across to the crew.”

Richard said that when Hitchin fire watch commander Mark Burgess asked them to come with him to speak at the school, he and Leah thought it was a great idea.

The road safety presentation at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett The road safety presentation at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett

He said: “Although very difficult for us, if we can do something positive out of such a terrible event, it’s worth it.

“We know Linda would be very proud of the work the fire service did for us, and still does on a daily basis. If we can help in some small way to hopefully make a big difference to a young driver’s insight to the far-reaching consequences of their actions, it’s most definitely worth the time.”

Mark said: “Being able to talk to young people who are at the point of learning to drive about the effect of simple decisions is an opportunity to reinforce the messages on driving safely.

“There can be a feeling that ‘I am invincible’, or that ‘it will never happen to me’ – but having Richard and Leah talk about how their lives changed in a second really brings the message home powerfully.”

Cutting open a car as part of the road safety demonstration at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett Cutting open a car as part of the road safety demonstration at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett

The day included a practical demonstration on the physics and dynamics of a collision and how people are cut out of a car, and an account of a fatal crash from Richard, Leah and Mark.

PC Keith Harding of Herts police also gave a presentation on the day, and Richard’s father Vincent Woodstock spoke about how the families of those involved in serious crashes are informed.

Princess Helena College’s Lorna McPherson, who helped with co-ordination, said: “I cannot thank Hitchin fire service enough for co-ordinating this workshop for our girls. The presentations were really powerful and I am sure that it will have a really positive impact on their driving over the coming years.”

Student Megan Seiorse said: “It was an intense afternoon which really made us think about what could go wrong while we are driving.” Her friend Olivia Nazari agreed.

Cutting open a car as part of the road safety demonstration at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett Cutting open a car as part of the road safety demonstration at Princess Helena College near Hitchin. Picture: Julie Springett

Sgt Richard Cruse, from the Beds, Cambs and Herts forensic collisions investigation unit, said: “In my time in this role I have dealt with many collisions with different causes, but I continue to be deeply frustrated with certain drivers’ poor decision-making which then has such a catastrophic effect on other people’s lives.

“Adhere to the speed limit, don’t take drugs or drink alcohol before driving, wear your seatbelt and don’t use your mobile device at the wheel. You have the power to make the right decision in order to keep you and other road users safe. Don’t take the risk.”

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