INCREDIBLE STORY OF SURVIVAL
AWOMAN has described her ordeal after she fell into a quarry and crawled out with broken ribs, a shattered pelvis, punctured lung and ruptured spleen.
Sally Nowell, 36, plunged 60 feet after tripping up on her pet dog.
Her shattered pelvis meant she could not stand, so she began dragging herself along on her elbows.
She spent hours crawling to safety as she heard rescue helicopters overheard trying to find her.
She eventually managed to clamber back out of the quarry in the dark and was found by a rescue dog.
Stable jockey Sally, of Midsomer Norton, Somerset, is still receiving hospital treatment following the ordeal on August 13.
She said: “There are quite a few quarries near where I live. I was walking the dogs – I like to go running and take the dogs with me.
“I’ve been up there with my husband lots of times. But this time I decided to take a path I hadn’t ever been down before.”
The path led Sally to the edge of a 60ft cliff.
“I wanted to see, so I wandered off the path and peered over the edge – it was a big drop with a lot of rocks and undergrowth,” she said.
“I got a bit scared and I turned back around to make sure the dogs hadn’t got too close the edge. But I was a bit disoriented, I took a step back and tripped over a dog. I remember falling through the air. Everything slows down. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is going to hurt’.”
Sally was knocked unconscious as she landed at the bottom of the cliff.
“I remember it was getting dark when I woke up,” she said. “It was about 8pm when I fell – this was back in August – so it must have been 9pm or 9.30pm when I came to.
“I didn’t know where I was – I was severely concussed. It took me a while to figure out but it started coming back to me.”
Sally said the pain was not too intense at first, but she knew her arm was broken because it was at a “funny angle”.
“I tried to walk, but the pain in my pelvis wouldn’t let me use my legs,” she said.
Sally’s husband, Sean, 38, was not due home from his job as a selfemployed mechanical engineer until much later.
Meanwhile, she lay helpless and alone at the bottom of the quarry with her dogs looking down from the top of the cliff.
“I realised I had to save myself,” said Sally.
So she began dragging herself across the quarry floor towards a way out.
“I was crawling along on my elbows,” she said. “It was further than I thought. I kept having to rest. I couldn’t get very far with the pain and the concussion. I managed to get about halfway, but I had to stop.”
She continued to drift in and out of consciousness for the next few hours and would try to crawl before stopping to rest.
“It must have been 2am or 3am when I heard a helicopter flying overhead,” she added. “I thought, ‘Oh, that couldn’t be for me’. But when it came back and started circling I realised it was for me.”
The police helicopter had been dispatched to find Sally, using a searchlight to look for her among the rocks and trees in the quarry.
“At one point it flew straight over with its searchlight but it didn’t see me,” she said.
“That’s when I started to panic. When they flew away again, I think I started to give up hope.
“As the morning came, I started to panic – I thought maybe nobody would find me,” Sally said. “But then one of the dogs barked – I thought they might have heard someone, so I called out – and one of the search and rescuers called back, ‘We’ve got you. We’re coming.”
Sally was overcome with relief and exhaustion when her rescuers arrived. She was given painkillers and airlifted to Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
Her heart stopped on the operating table while surgeons were trying to save her.
“They had to resuscitate me and they had to put a chest drain in. They said I was very lucky I didn’t bleed to death from the injury to my spleen,” said Sally.
Despite the horrific injuries, she healed quickly. She was out of intensive care in a week.
But while the physical injuries healed, the long periods of inaction had another effect on her health.
She has suffered from anorexia her whole life and she said the prolonged periods of immobility were “torture”. Fearing she would put on weight while unable to walk, she stopped eating.
“After two weeks at home I’d lost
loads of weight. My care worker asked if I wanted to go to hospital,” she said.
Sally said things had been going well before her fall – she had been managing to get her weight up and had made healthy changes to her lifestyle – but the fall was a setback.
She is getting hospital treatment for her anorexia and is in pain from her pelvis and back. But she is nevertheless riding horses again.
Sally thanked those who had rescued her from the worst night of her life: “If it wasn’t for search and rescue I wouldn’t have survived.”
A spokesperson from the Avon and Somerset Search and Rescue said that without her dogs staying with her “the outcome may not have been as good” for Sally.
“We are all so pleased that Sally is making a good recovery and pass on our very best wishes,” they said.
Sally Nowell reunitedwith her dog
Sally recovering in hospital
The quarry where the incident occurred (arrows show where Sally fell and landed)