A WOMAN who nearly lost her leg after a horrific car crash in South Molton has paid an emotional tribute to her sister for saving her life.
Laura Reddy, 23, from Bishops Nympton, was walking along South Street on November 11 last year when a car smashed into her and sister Nadine Marchant.
The car was being driven by 90-year-old William Peto. His shoe got jammed on the accelerator while he attempted a three-point turn.
The crash left teaching assistant Laura bleeding heavily and fighting for her life.
It was the quick thinking of her sister Nadine, 36, which stopped her bleeding to death.
Laura and Nadine had finished work at South Molton Community College and were on their way to Nadine's house to prepare for a charity party.
Laura, who had finished a degree in Human Psychology at Aston University in Birmingham earlier in the year, said: "We were chatting away when we heard a car's engine revving heavily. At first we thought it was a boy racer. The sound was loud enough to make us both look up.
"As we did, right in front of us a car mounted the pavement. It happened so quickly."
Nadine was thrown onto the road by the car, leaving her with a chipped kneecap and badly bruised hands.
However, the main force of the impact hit Laura's right leg and hurled her several metres down the pavement.
Laura said: "The car only stopped when it hit a telegraph pole and it was still accelerating when it came to a halt.
"My first reaction was to try and stand up due to the adrenaline and shock.
"But I soon realised the bone was sticking out of my leg and I couldn't lift it at all.
"I don't think anything can get close to the pain I felt. It was absolute agony.
"I was screaming loudly and I was convinced my leg had gone and there was nothing I could do to save it."
Despite her own shock and injuries, Laura's sister quickly came to her aid.
Nadine got a belt from a passer by and used it as a tourniquet to stem the blood loss from Laura's leg.
Laura said: "The doctors said if she hadn't done what she did I would have bled out and died before the ambulance arrived. I could feel myself fading and told Nadine I didn't think I was going to make it.
"But Nadine kept telling me off and told me not to speak like that."
Laura was taken to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton for emergency vascular surgery, then transferred to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol.
She said: "The possibility of losing my whole leg hung over me for several weeks.
"I was extremely lucky to be treated by the Mobile International Surgical Team (MIST) who specialise in limb reconstruction.
"This included a doctor who was a marine and was used to treating similar injuries on the battle fields.
"One of the MIST doctors said it was one of the worst lower limb injuries they'd ever seen."
Laura had lost a lot of muscle and tissue and the blood supply to her leg had been cut.
Doctors took skin from her back and left leg to rebuild what had been lost in the crash.
Laura said: "It was touch and go for a while but they managed to save my leg.
"I spent about three weeks at Frenchay before coming home where I was bed bound with nurse treatment for about five months.
"My right leg is now slightly shorter due to bone loss and I have had to learn to walk again.
"It's been very painful as my leg is a different shape now and doesn't have the same range of movement.
"Before the accident I only ever wore skirts and leggings but now I have to wear trousers all the time."
Laura said the mental effect of the crash continues to have profound consequences.
She said: "I wouldn't go outside for a very long time and being near traffic was terrifying.
"It's made me think that nothing is safe, just walking down a street is difficult. I've started driving again in a special mobility car but this has been very daunting and I'm still rather nervous.
"However, things have improved an awful lot and I'm starting to get a level of normality back in my life."
Laura praised her sister Nadine.
She said: "Thank God Nadine did what she did, I'm so grateful to her. She literally saved my life.
"This crash has turned my whole life upside down but it has definitely brought Nadine and I closer."
Nadine, who still works at South Molton Community College, says she often replays the moment in her head.
She said: "Every day I walk past the scene and try to make sense of what happened.
"I wish I could have responded by pushing her out of the way but everything happened so quickly.
"I just did the only thing I could think of to help her."
Laura added: "I'd also like to say a huge thank you to everyone in South Molton who has been so supportive and to PC Rod Lomas who has been amazing."
Pensioner William Peto, of Lapford House Wood in Lapford, appeared at Exeter Crown Court this week where he pleaded guilty to careless driving.
Judge Erik Salomonsen invoked rarely used powers under the Road Traffic Act to extend a driving ban indefinitely on the grounds that Peto's age and infirmity rendered him a danger to the public.
Peto was also fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £100 costs.
The judge said: "This accident had the most dreadful consequences.
"Nobody could fail to be moved by the suffering the accident has visited upon the victims and nothing can compensate them for their injuries."
Laura is now petitioning the Government to introduce regular competency testing for drivers over the age of 70.
She said: "He should never have been driving that day.
"You hear a lot about the problems caused by young drivers but there should be just as much emphasis on elderly drivers.
"I would like to see regular, compulsory competence testing for drivers over 70 and I have started a Government e-petition to this effect.
"This crash has resulted in me losing my independence but I really hope some positive legislation can come out of it to make sure nothing similar happens again.
"Driving is a privilege, not a right."
You can sign Laura's petition by visiting http:// epetitions.direct.gov.uk/ petitions/42368.