Incredible story of bell ringer impaled on an 106-year-old church bell

A bell ringer who was impaled on one of the bells he was cleaning has told the story of his narrow escape from serious injury.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 9th January 2017, 4:37 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 4:46 pm
Robert Wood, 62, found himself impaled on an 106-year-old church bell
Robert Wood, 62, found himself impaled on an 106-year-old church bell

Robert Wood, 62, was doing maintenance work in the bell tower at Middleham Church, near Wensleydale, when he slipped and fell several feet onto the 106-year-old mechanism.

A metal peg penetrated his chin, smashed his jaw and narrowly missed the major blood vessels in his neck. Robert, who also regularly rings the bells at Ripon Cathedral, staggered down from the belfry where a colleague found him.

The retired environmental health officer was flown by the Yorkshire Air Ambulance to the major trauma centre at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough for treatment.

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Robert Wood after his accident

His freak accident will feature in the January 30 episode of Helicopter ER, the UKTV series that follows the life-saving work of Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Robert underwent a four-hour operation to repair his shattered jaw, which is now held together by metal plates, and spent five days in hospital.

“I was at the top of the tower, walking across the metal bell frame when I missed my footing and ended up landing chin-first onto a piece of the bell mechanism which had a rusty metal peg on the end,” said Robert, who lives in Ripon.

“I managed to get myself off that and make my way down the ladder. It’s amazing what you can do with adrenaline.

Robert Wood after his accident

“The land and then air ambulance were there very quickly and I was just so grateful to be flown to hospital within minutes. They saved me from what would have been a long and painful journey of over an hour on winding roads.”

He is now planning to show his gratitude to the medics who cared for him by returning to the bell tower for a 'sponsored peal' in aid of the YAA charity.

He and 11 friends will ring the Ripon Cathedral bells non-stop for three hours on January 14, attempting over 5,000 different changes. His fundraising target is £4,000 - the cost of his flight in the helicopter.

“It is certainly a challenge that requires stamina and a high level of concentration.”

“We are attempting to ring just over 5,000 changes, all different, on the 12 bells at Ripon Cathedral which is quite difficult and I reckon we have about a 75 per cent chance of success.

“But I wanted to repay the cost of my flight. You see the air ambulance and put your loose change into a collection tin never ever thinking that one day you will need this fantastic service.”

The aftermath of the accident can be seen on the Really Channel at 10pm on January 30.

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