A father of four ‘left for dead’ by a hit-and-run driver who knocked him off his scooter in the early hours of the morning says he will never understand how anyone could leave someone so clearly injured and in need of help.
Stuart Sunderland, 40, suffered four breaks to his thigh and also broke his calf, shin and ankle bones when landing on the road after being thrown from his scooter in the collision.
In the moments after the accident he says he saw the car – a dark-coloured Volkswagen which had cut across his path – stop and its passenger door open, only to then see the door close again and the car drive off.
An appeal by West Yorkshire Police for witnesses to the accident, which happened at 3.50am on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, has since proved fruitless.
Mr Sunderland and his partner Jess say they have now been told CCTV footage has been unable to identify the registration number of the car.
And as there were no witnesses due to the early hour of the accident, the only chance of the driver now being found is if somebody comes forward with new information.
The accident, which happened as Mr Sunderland was travelling to work, has left him facing an uncertain future. His ankle was so badly damaged that he needed to have muscle removed from his left thigh to create stability in the joint, in an attempt to fix it.
He has already had two operations and needs a third, but as he currently has a cage on his ankle, and there is a risk that the bone could become infected, that has been postponed.
He says he has been warned it may never properly recover, and whilst dealing with a potentially life-changing injury is something he admits he is struggling to accept, so is the fact that nobody has come forward to accept responsibility.
“I simply cannot comprehend how someone could leave somebody for dead in the middle of the road like they did,” said Mr Sunderland, of Leeds, West Yorkshire.
“I can perhaps understand the panic that goes through somebody’s mind when something like that happens, but as far as they knew I was being left alone and I could have been in the road for hours given the time it happened.
“Even if they panicked when driving off, surely your conscious would kick in and you’d go back and see that they got help, or call an ambulance at least.
“Fortunately, some other people who must have been returning from a night shift at work came by about a minute or so later and called an ambulance for me, but it was the longest minute of my life.”
Lack of witnesses and failure to trace car has hampered police investigation
An experienced scooter rider, Mr Sunderland says he drives with extra caution in the hours of darkness as he is aware many other drivers have ‘bike blindness’.
“It’s something you are aware of as a biker, many people simply don’t see you if you don’t have two headlights,” he said.
“That makes you extra cautious, but in this case the car had been coming in the opposite direction for some time. I had the car in my sight for a good number of seconds as he came towards me, and it was travelling at a reasonable speed and indicating to turn right.
‘I cannot comprehend how somebody could leave someone injured in the road’
“Everything seemed normal and in control, but as we were about to pass one another it swung across my path, instead of waiting for me to pass, and went and into me. It was like they didn’t see me at all.”
Mr Sunderland says he can remember the impact of the collision and being thrown into the air. He remained conscious at all times.
“I can remember being in the air for a good few seconds, and when it happened I thought ‘I’m dead’, he said.
“When I hit the floor I was in immediate excruciating pain, particularly my ankle, but I couldn’t really see the damage because I couldn’t get my helmet off. I remember seeing the car stop, and it actually looked like it reversed a bit towards me. The door opened, then closed, then it drove off.
“I remember thinking I’d die and that my children would be left without their dad growing up. I thought that my six-month old baby girl would never remember me when she was older.”
Mr Sunderland and his partner Jess say they have now been told the accident is no longer being actively investigated, and progress will only be made is somebody comes forward with new information. It is why they have shared their story.
“We were told that had the accident killed him, there would still be lots of officers working on this, but because he is still alive he is classed as being ok. That is wrong and not something we want to accept,” said Jess.
Mr Sunderland added: “It is unacceptable and so disappointing. This is life-changing for us as a family. Even now it has been life-changing. My little girl Reenie is only six months old and I now pretty much have to watch Jess and her family bring her up. I can’t do anything for her.
“Our lives have changed so much so quickly.”
Solicitors helping in claim for damages despite driver responsible not being found
Mr Sunderland is now being helped by personal injury specialists Hudgell Solicitors, experts in supporting those who are victims of accidents involving untraced or uninsured drivers.
Solicitor Katy Nelson, who is based in the firm’s Leeds office, says damages will be sought for his injuries through the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB), and to cover for his loss of earnings as he has been told he will be unable to return to his work as a fork-lift truck driver for the next 12 months at least.
She said: “In situations like this victims like Mr Sunderland find themselves in a horrendous position as they have suffered serious injury, but they are also left with no means of which to make a claim to compensate them for their injuries and loss.
“He is now looking at least 12 months where he will be unable to earn and support his family, possibly much longer. The impact this injury on his life and those close to him will be significant, but the full extent of that impact is not yet known.
“In these circumstances, we will be looking to secure Mr Sunderland compensation to help him and his family financially through these difficult times, and to secure rehabilitation support to help him towards his recovery.
“In such cases, the MIB is there to assist the thousands of people who are injured, and the families of those killed, by uninsured and untraced drivers.”
- Mr Sunderland was riding a Pulse 125 Lightspeed scooter when the accident happened with the dark coloured Volkswagen on Dewsbury Road at the junction with Trentham Street, at 3.50am on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.
Anyone who feels they may have information on incident, or who saw the vehicles immediately before, can contact West Yorkshire police on 101 quoting log 155, or Katy Nelson, of Hudgell Solicitors, on 0800 321 3366.