A married couple revealed how they were left ‘centimetres’ from death when a 15-tonne oak tree crashed onto their vehicle during a storm.

Stephanie and Giles Bilton felt ‘very lucky’ to survive their ordeal after the tree smashed through the roof of their Mitsubishi 4×4 and trapped them inside.

It took Yorkshire Air Ambulance crews more than an hour to pull Giles from the wreckage because his body was pinned down by large branches.

Giles was then flown to hospital with six broken ribs, while Stephanie was later found to have a broken humerus and fractures to her shoulder and scapula. Both have thankfully since made a full recovery. 

The frightening incident unfolded as they drove through York in January last year to meet their friends as Storm Malik brought battered Britain with 80mph gusts.

Stephanie and Giles Bilton came within 'centimetres' of death after a 15-tonne oak tree hit their Mitsubishi 4x4

Stephanie and Giles Bilton came within ‘centimetres’ of death after a 15-tonne oak tree hit their Mitsubishi 4×4 

Speaking of their ordeal for the first time, Giles remembered: ‘I can still picture passing by the village hall, thinking ‘Wow this is seriously windy’ and then I just recall waking up in a complete mess in a car with a tree all over me.

‘I was pinned to the seat, and I could hardly breathe. The seatbelt was like a ratchet strap – I felt quite desperate at that point.

‘I remember a farmer talking to me when I regained consciousness, who had informed me that he had called for help.

‘I can’t begin to explain the relief when I could hear the helicopter landing beside us.’

Stephanie said that she was filled with relief when she finally saw Giles after receiving her treatment.

She added: ‘I wasn’t informed about Giles’ condition initially. The first sight of Giles post-accident was when I returned home from the hospital.

‘Seeing him waiting in the kitchen brought immense relief. We have been married for 32 years, so I can’t express the comfort I felt in seeing him again.’

Air ambulance lead paramedic Gemma Richmond said she was still amazed that the couple had come through their ordeal.

She said: ‘It’s unbelievable that two individuals driving in a car were struck by a tree of that magnitude and managed to survive.

‘A mere few centimetres in either direction and the outcome could have been drastically different.

‘While our helicopter often responds to distressing situations, this particular incident will be etched in memory for its positive conclusion-and a reminder to live for the present moment.’

The remarkable rescue operation to save Stephanie and Giles Bilton began when the Yorkshire Air Ambulance set off to their crash site in the middle of the storm.

Pilot Colin Hawkesworth, with three decades of flying experience under challenging conditions, covered the 11-mile flight distance in just 4 and a half minutes.

Paramedics Gemma Richmond and Lisa Dempster collaborated with local medics and Fire and Rescue services to extricate the Biltons from the wreckage.

Stephanie, who was a passenger at the time, was easily freed.

However, Giles remained trapped for over an hour, pinned by large branches covering his chest, shoulder and legs.

Gemma highlighted the delicate balance between urgency and caution during the extraction process, expressing concerns about potential hidden injuries.

She said: ‘When moving things around from on top of a patient, there is always a risk that it might be inadvertently blocking a critical bleed.

‘My foremost concern was that by moving the tree, we could potentially trigger a hidden major internal or external bleed.’

Upon examination, Stephanie had suffered a blow to the head, which was causing her to become disorientated. She also had lacerations to her head, face and hands.

But Giles’s plummeting oxygen levels raised immediate concerns for the paramedics, signalling a critical situation.

He had suffered lacerations across his head, extensive injuries to the left side of the chest, and reported numbness in his right hand.

The drastic drop in temperatures made administering pain medication challenging due to the limited availability of viable veins.

Ambulance paramedics were amazed that the couple survived the ordeal in the middle of Storm Malik

Ambulance paramedics were amazed that the couple survived the ordeal in the middle of Storm Malik

Consequently, Giles was put in a state-of-the-art thermal sleeping bag to rapidly elevate his body temperature and sustain it throughout the transportation process.

The couple’s pet dog was also freed from the car and left unscathed by the accident.

Giles became the priority candidate for an airlift due to the helicopter’s capacity to transport only one patient at a time.

And despite the weather challenges, the YAA team efficiently flew him to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

The couple were treated at separate locations, approximately 50 miles apart as Stephanie was brought by land ambulance to York General Hospital.

And miraculously, Giles survived with just six broken ribs – narrowly avoiding fatal injuries to his lungs and heart.

Stephanie faced a series of severe injuries, including a broken humerus, and fractures to her shoulder and scapula.

Giles thanked the air ambulance team after the pair were able to return home and recover from their injuries.

He said: ‘The air ambulance staff were incredible, and I am immensely thankful for everything they did for me and my wife on that day.

‘We were lucky, well very unlucky, to be hit by the crown of the tree, but very lucky to get out of it alive.’

Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail

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