A pair of Fylde coast fast friends are trundling across Europe in an old £150 banger to help a life-saving charity.
Leo Crossley and Richie Dawson, both 27, organised the 3,500 round trip from Blackpool in place of a stag do to show their support for the air ambulance service that saved the life of the groom-to-be.
Leo suffered life-threatening injuries in a motorbike crash in Inskip in September 2013 - and says he would have bled to death in a ditch had it not been for the air ambulance flying to his aid.
“I was coming into a corner and as I was breaking I skidded and I hit a tree, said Leo, a mechanic who lives off Fleetwood Road North, Thornton. “I woke up in a ditch and I pushed myself out, and I knew then that something was wrong, because I could hardly move.”
Leo had a fractured neck and severe internal bleeding - the crash had ruptured his spleen - and was quickly losing blood.
A friend who had been travelling behind Leo, and his fiancee Kirsten Young who was involved in the crash but was unhurt, called 999, and the air ambulance was called out.
Leo said: “I originally thought that my shoulder had dislocated because I couldn’t move it. My whole left side felt numb. I didn’t realise I had internal bleeding.
“To be honest, it was all a bit of a blur. I remember everything happening but I couldn’t say whether it was five minutes or an hour, but I could hear the ambulance coming, the emergency services turning up, the ride in the air ambulance and arriving at Royal Preston Hospital.
“I got some scans done and they told me they needed to operate.
“They originally thought both my kidneys had gone because there was so much blood. But they found out my spleen had ruptured because my ribs had broken.
“I just tried to stay calm at the time and not agitate myself.”
Leo lost five pints of blood in the accident, and had to have his spleen removed.
Five years on - and one full recovery later - he now hopes to raise £1,000 for the service that saved him.
“I owe them my life,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them getting there and doing it as quickly as they did, I would have bled out and died. I just thought why not give back to them?”
Richie, a computer engineer who lives on Devon Avenue, Fleetwood, also owes thanks to the air ambulance, which flew out to him in June 2017 when he was accidentally struck in the face with an angle grinder.
He said: “I was Over Wyre in the middle of nowhere. I was cutting some steel and the angle grinder bounced back and hit me in the face.
“I was in a real mess. It hit me over my eyebrow and right eye.
“They air-lifted me to Preston and I had to have reconstructive surgery
“If they hadn’t got me there as soon as they did I could have lost my eye. It took them four minutes, maximum.
“At the time I was in shock.
“I’ve got a prominent scar now, so I look like Scarface.”
Leo and Richie, who have been friends for 11 years since meeting as teens at Blackpool and The Fylde College, together decided to raise money for the air ambulance instead of arranging a typical stag do party for Leo ahead of his wedding to Kirsten in May.
They have now departed from Blackpool in an old Citroen Xania, which Leo purchased for £150 from a customer who wanted to scrap it, as they embark on a journey of a lifetime.
They travelled to Dover, where they took a ferry to Dunkirk, France.
They will drive through Belgium, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy before returning to Dunkirk from Monaco.
They will arrive back in Blackpool on March 16 - provided their old banger doesn’t break down on the way.
Richie, who will be Leo’s best man at his wedding, said: “The air ambulance charity is quite close to both of us and we know how much they need donations. They aren’t funded by the government.
“A lot of people would be in trouble without them.
“It’s going to be an adventure, and it’s going to be difficult. We’ll be driving on average 13 or 14 hours each day. The last stretch from Monaco to Dunkirk will be the main stretch, about 15 hours.
“We’ll be sleeping in our car if we have to!”
People can keep up with Leo and Richie’s ‘Nine Countries, Seven Days’ journey online at www.facebook.com/9countries7days.
Their fundraiser can be found at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/9in7days.