Severed foot man tells of the moment ‘the sky faded’

A pensioner whose foot was almost severed in a boating accident has spoken of the moment his life changed for ever, and his debt to those who saved his life.

Clive Potter of Bedwell in Stevenage felt an “electric shock” as a propeller blade sliced through his right leg – almost severing his foot after he fell overboard into the River Great Ouse near St Neots.

The 66-year-old who has more than 25 years nautical experience, said the propeller struck as he struggled to make his way to the surface after being thrown into the water by a sudden jolt while boating down the river in June.

“It was a lovely sunny day and I was travelling up from Stevenage with my wife Christine, our friend Jo and our dog Hooch for a party in St Neots that night,” he said. “I was on the front of the boat and Jo was in control.”

It was then that they spotted a piece of tarpaulin floating on the water, “which can cause severe damage if it gets caught in the propeller”, Mr Potter said.

“We were heading straight for the tarpaulin, so Jo slammed the boat into reverse. The bow went down and, as the boat jolted back, I was tossed in the air.

“Before I knew what had happened I’d been catapulted into the water.”

Most Read

Things happened so quickly that he initially thought he had broken his leg and had no idea how severe the injury was.

“By this time I was about 25 metres from the boat and as I tried to swim towards it I realised I couldn’t.”

The retired sales engineer managed however to make his way to the side of the river and drag himself from the water.

“I still hadn’t realised what had happened at this point,” he said. “But then I took one look at my foot and knew instantly.

“I remember looking up and thinking the sky was fading.”

The emergency services were immediately called and the Magpas charity air ambulance helicopter and ground ambulance crews scrambled to the riverside.

Mr Potter was given critical care by Magpas doctor Anne Booth and volunteer paramedic Jo Lambert who gave him A&E level critical care, before escorting him to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

There he underwent surgery to amputate his right foot just above the ankle.

Mr Potter said his rehabilitation was difficult but was helped by another patient, Steven Stark, of Northwold, Norfolk, whose lower leg was amputated following a motorbike accident a month earlier.

Mr Stark, 57, had also been helped by Magpas and Dr Booth.

“I remember lying in bed and seeing Steve go past using his walker,” Mr Potter said. “I thought to myself ‘There’s a guy like me’ and a couple of days later we were introduced.”

The next 40 days in hospital saw the two men forge a strong bond that helped both of them recover both physically and mentally from their traumas.

At a reunion at Magpas headquarters in St Ives last Thursday, Mr Stark said their friendship had brought him back from the brink of suicide.

“He was my absolute tonic during those dark, dark days,” he said.

Both men said they owed their lives to Magpas.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter