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Cyclist who almost died after being impaled on railings was told to pay for damage

By This is Devon  |  Posted: March 31, 2011

  • Ben Foulds with his dad Andy and sister Emma

  • SPEECHLESS: Claire Foulds, above left, with the letter from the county council and the piece of fence which impaled Ben, above right. Picture: Mike Southon. To order this photograph call 0844 4060 262 and quote Ref: BNMS20110329H-003_C

  • ACCIDENT SPOT: The area where Ben went over the fencing, at the top of the stone wall, and plunged to the ground. Picture: Mike Southon. To order this photograph call 0844 4060 262 and quote Ref: BNMS20110329H-007_C

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A COUNCIL has apologised after a teenager paralysed in a cycling accident was told he must pay for damaging the railings on which he was impaled.

Ben Foulds, 18, was nearly killed when he collided with the railings on Old Sticklepath Hill.

He landed head-first on a road 15 feet below and part of a railing went eight inches into the side of his body.

His injuries included a broken back and a swelling of the brain.

He is undergoing rehabilitation but is unlikely to walk again.

Last week he received a letter from Devon County Council saying he would have to pay for the cost of repairs to the railings.

The letter, from a council finance officer, said: "It has been reported to me that you caused damage to a section of railings alongside the highway which belongs to Devon County Council.

"The council is entitled to recover the costs from the person responsible for the damage.

"An invoice will be raised in due course in respect of the cost of these works, and sent to you for settlement."

Ben told the Journal: "I would not have expected them to send out a letter considering I nearly died, just because I broke their railings in the process.

"We have no intention of paying it. When my mum first told me, I thought it was quite funny."

His mother, Claire, with whom he lives in King Edward Street, was astonished.

She said: "It's amazing the council would send something like that.

"It is quite insensitive considering he is still in hospital and is in a wheelchair because of the accident. I was speechless when I read it."

She has passed the letter to her solicitor, saying: "I couldn't be dealing with it. We have enough on our plate and we don't want another thing like this to deal with."

The letter did not say how much the bill would be.

When the Journal contacted Devon County Council it issued a statement apologising for the letter.

A spokesman said: "This letter is a mistake and should not have been sent. We will not be asking the family to pay for the damage. We apologise to them for the concern and distress that this may have caused them."

He said the Council had not been aware of the circumstances of the incident when the standard letter was sent to the family.

After the accident in November, Ben was sedated for two weeks at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

In December, he was transferred to the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Odstock near Salisbury.

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    Albert, Barnstaple  |  April 03 2011, 5:56PM

    This rubbish that "Anon" is saying about him being on a mobile is pure hearsay, possible made up just to get reaction. Firstly he is not giving his name, secondly he does not back up his unprovoked and unfair claim. So do not treat this as if he has been careless and using his mobile just because one anonymous moron thought he'd lie and say it for a laugh.

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    sam, braunton  |  April 03 2011, 5:32PM

    sad about the attitude in saying 'they won't be paying it'. why should tax payers foot the bill? If he claims insurance or receives compensation -as is usual these days- it is only fair that he contribute something if he can. seems that the accident has not taught him anything..(and Fred,N. Devon, with respect, if Ben was using a mobile phone then He is the stupid one - not the council )perhaps all cyclists should wear helmets which would also deter use of mobile phones.

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    Desmond, UK  |  April 03 2011, 4:59PM

    I have great sympathy for the young lad, and sincerely hope he recovers ASAP. That said, I have always believed that all cyclists should be required to have insurance to cover the damage they may cause to themselves or (as in this case) to other peoples' property! It should not be the taxpayer who picks up the bill.

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    FRED, N. Devon  |  April 03 2011, 10:04AM

    to "ANON" (council employee?); yes; i would be baying for his head; IF he WERE driving a car...or a helicopter...or a motorcycle.

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    Anon, Barnstaple  |  April 03 2011, 9:19AM

    He was using his mobile phone when the accident happened. If it had been a car driver who hit some railings whist using their phone, you'd all be asking for his head!

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    Fred, N. Devon  |  April 03 2011, 7:59AM

    ...ANOTHER example of NORTH DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL being only slightly more STUPID than GREEDY.What were they thinking?...They obviously weren't.

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