Long road to recovery for anti drink-drive campaigner

Wed 13 Jun, 2018

Watch Commander Mark Richards at Buckingham Palace garden party

With Thames Valley Police’s latest anti drink- and drug-driving campaign in full swing, we’ve been catching up with the “face” of their Christmas crackdown, Watch Commander Mark Richards from Waddesdon Fire Station.

Mark suffered life-changing injuries - a shattered pelvis and shoulder, a punctured lung and five broken ribs - when a drunk driver crashed into him while he was riding his motorbike in Banbury last July.

The driver was sentenced to two years in prison for causing serious injury by dangerous driving, given a four-month concurrent sentence for driving while over the alcohol limit and banned from driving for five years.

On scene, he blew 84 micrograms on the breathalyser – more than twice the legal limit of 35mg. While in custody, his reading went up to 93mg.

In December, Mark featured in a frank and moving five-minute video released by Thames Valley Police in which he talked about how the collision had affected his and his family’s lives. Click here to see the video.

He also faced up to the possibility that he would not be able to continue serving as a firefighter, saying: “The prognosis for movement in the shoulder is that I won't be able to get it above shoulder height. Obviously you can’t be a firefighter if you can't use one of your arms properly.”

Last month, Mark’s contribution to the community was recognised when he was one of the emergency service guests who attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace. The Prince of Wales' 70th Birthday Patronage Celebration highlighted the achievements of the Prince’s patronages and military affiliations, the charities he supports and people from public services. Mark is pictured above at the garden party.

Mark attends regular physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and trauma clinic sessions, spends many hours a week on an exercise bike and is about to start his third spell at a recuperation centre in Sussex run by The Fire Fighters Charity. 

The organisation, which is celebrating its 75 anniversary this year, provides life-enhancing health and wellbeing support to the fire and rescue community.

He is able to drive an automatic car and has returned part-time to his day job in Henley, where he is business development manager for Beckhoff Automation. 

Mark, whose son Jack is an apprentice firefighter at High Wycombe Fire Station, keeps in touch socially with colleagues at Waddesdon Fire Station and attends their weekly drill nights, which are held on Monday evenings, as often as he can.

He said this week: “There is a lot of work to be done on my shoulder, and all I can do is keep trying.

“I was surprised by how much interest there was in the video when it came out and how many people wanted to interview me afterwards. I was pleased that I was able to contribute to campaign.

“I would like to do whatever I can to continue to promote anti drink-drive messages, and road safety in general.”

Mick Osborne, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said: “Mark has made a powerful contribution to the campaign, and his message will have gone a long way towards changing the attitudes of people who have previously been too tolerant of drink-driving.”