Sally Hulse, client of Julian Chamberlayne, Partner and Head of International Injury, appears in the Sunday People campaigning for holiday quad biking tragedies to be avoided. Sally’s husband, Jamie, died aged 47 in a quad biking accident whilst in Morocco in 2014.
Below is the full article as it appeared in the Sunday People and on mirror.co.uk on 27th February 2016.
‘My husband’s death in quad bike plunge turned my dream 50th birthday year into a nightmare’
Grieving widow Sally Hulse tells how holiday horror tore her world apart and how she is campaigning for other families to avoid a similar tragedy.
Sunday is Sally Hulse’s birthday but there will be no cards, cake or party – the date means pain and grief.
Birthdays are bitter reminders of the time her world fell apart – when her husband Jamie plunged 100ft off a cliff to his death on a quad bike.
Sally is racked with regrets for encouraging him to go on the bike in North Africa during their year of celebrating her 50th with a series of adventures. It was faulty.
She said: “I’m eaten up by the guilt. We went to Morocco because of my birthday. I’ll never mark another one.
“I know it wasn’t my fault but I knew how risky quad biking can be. Jamie wasn’t keen on going on but I encouraged him. The last thing I said to him was it would be fun.”
Sally, 52, later found there had been previous accidents on the same route. She wants tourists to think carefully about hiring quad bikes.
She told the Sunday People: “People let their guard down on holiday and do things they wouldn’t normally do without asking questions about safety or thinking of the consequences.”
Jamie’s death, aged 47 in 2014, was not an isolated incident.
Weeks later, law student Shannon O’Dwyer, 18, from Croydon, South London, died in a quad bike accident on the Greek isle of Zante.
Last year an unnamed British woman lost her life in a similar incident in Australia. The Association of British Travel Agents said ten Brits were seriously injured abroad last year on the off-road vehicles.
In December, at an inquest in Hatfield, Herts, coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said Jamie’s death was an accident – but quad bike faults, lack of instruction and insufficient safety gear were contributing factors.
Sally said: “It’s hard to come to terms with the fear Jamie must have been feeling in those last moments and how terrified he’d have been.
“It devastates me I wasn’t with him and that he had to die alone.
“Maybe if he’d died naturally I’d have been more accepting. But what angers me is how easily his death could have been prevented.”
The year Sally turned 50 was to be a special one for the couple, who had met in their home town of St Albans, Herts, in 1984 and married in September 1991.
Greengrocers Jamie and Sally, parents to sons Beau, 23, Kitt, 21, and Bella, 19, planned a getaway every month.
Hard-working Jamie always laboured through the night to provide for the family and could not make some of the breaks. But they went to Prague, Iceland, Ibiza and Lanzarote.
Sally said: “Some may think we’re lucky to have had a comfortable life but it’s only because we worked so hard that we were able to go to a five-star hotel. Now I wish we’d had nothing. Then I’d still have my husband.”
They planned go to Croatia in July 2014 but the hotel they liked was full. Instead they booked the five-star mountain top Kasbah Tamadot Hotel near Marrakech, run by Virgin Limited Edition – part of the Virgin Hotels Group.
They spent two days relaxing by the pool then other tourists persuaded them to join a quad bike excursion instead of enjoying a couples’ massage.
At the last minute there was not a working bike for Sally so she missed the trip, operated by a local company called Kasbah Quads.
She said: “Jamie pulled a face and said he wasn’t really keen on going without me but I told him it would be fun. Those were the last words I said to him and they’ll haunt me forever.”
A few hours later, a hotel worker told Sally Jamie had broken his arm and arranged a car to the local hospital. When she arrived she was told he had died.
With tears in her eyes, she recalled: “They took me to him and as I held him, his body was still warm.
“I was convinced he was still alive. I begged the doctors to check if they’d made a mistake but they ushered me out. He’d never taken his wedding ring off and I had just enough time to remove it.”
Sally had to make the hardest phone call of her life to tell their children. She said: “I spent the night alone in the hotel, looking at Jamie’s things around the room, wondering how my world had fallen apart in a few hours.”
Jamie’s body was flown home four days later. He had died from multiple traumatic injuries, including a blow to his head.
Hundreds attended his funeral at St Leonard’s in Sandridge, Herts, the church where the couple had married.
His coffin was carried in to their favourite song, Rod Stewart’s version of Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.
Moroccan police said the accident was driver error but Sally hired Julian Chamberlayne, of Stewarts Law. It emerged two other tourists on Kasbah Quads trips were also seriously injured yet no extra safety had been put in place. Jamie’s helmet was several sizes too large.
The non-English speaking guide relied on hand signals and failed to give proper safety instruction or warn of dangers.
Other witnesses said the ambulance was poorly equipped, with no neck brace, and Jamie was wrongly put in the recovery position. An expert said Jamie’s bike was unfit for the terrain and had suspension problems.
Sally said: “Had we’d known about just one of these factors there’s no way we’d have thought it was safe.
“We had signed a disclaimer, naively assuming that meant it was safe and the guide knew what he was doing.” Virgin Hotels Ltd had already cut ties with the local firm. They paid Sally an undisclosed amount in compensation.
After the inquest, managing director Jon Brown said: “We ceased all quad biking activity following this accident. We continue to be extremely receptive to the coroner’s comments.”
Sally said: “I’m thankful Virgin stopped running the excursions but there must be hundreds of people putting their lives at risk on similar trips all over the world.
“No money can bring him back but I have to think of our future.” Sally and her children have visited the spot where he was found and left painted stones and a cross.
Her tribute says: “To Jamie, my life, my love, my everything.”
She said: “It was strangely comforting. As we laid our stones it started pouring with rain, unheard of in Morocco at that time of the year. Moments later, a beautiful rainbow appeared.
“Some people might wonder if it was a sign from Jamie, but I can’t bear to think of an afterlife. I can’t handle the idea that Jamie is where I can’t reach him.
“His toothbrush is still in the bathroom and his garden shoes are still on the step. It’s too hard to let him go. If I can save one family from this hell, speaking out will have been worth it.”
Key issues to a safe ride
Here’s what to ask before taking a quad biking trip abroad:
When was the bike last serviced? – Ensure it is regularly maintained. Ask to see paperwork if you are unsure.
What safety equipment is there? – A helmet that fits is vital as a minimum. Guides should also carry a first aid kit and be trained to use it.
Can I get a safety demonstration? – Don’t leave until you are confident you can can control it and stop safely.
What is the exact route and have there been any previous accidents? – Find out what terrain you’ll be crossing, especially as a beginner. Research the route and company before you set off.
Do the guides speak English? – You need to know you can communicate and be understood. Ideally there should be two guides – one at the front and one at the back.
Medical facilities? – Make sure the facilities equate to the level of activity.
The article can be read on the Mirror website here:
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