Triathlete in horror crash thanks GNAAS for coming to his aid

A triathlon competitor who broke ten ribs after being thrown from his bike while on a mountain pass has thanked the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) for coming to his aid.

Paul Sutton, 44, from Wigan, was competing in the Helvellyn triathlon on September 3, when the back tyre of his bike blew out while he was cycling down Kirkstone Pass.

He said: “The bike had gone sideways and I dug in but then it flipped me in the air and I remember hitting the ground hard and seeing the sky. I lay there confused and thought I was in a dream. I kept thinking I was going to wake up in a minute.”

The father-of-one had broken his right collarbone, damaged joints in both shoulders, broke ten ribs, punctured a lung, had air and blood in his chest cavity and broke his t1 vertebrae.

Mr Sutton said: “I was unaware of the damage and was wiggling my feet to check they were alright and thought ‘thank god for that.’ In actual fact I was fitting and not breathing.”

The GNAAS paramedic and doctor team assessed and treated Mr Sutton before airlifting him to Royal Preston Hospital, where he spent the next ten days recovering.

Mr Sutton said: “From the moment the air ambulance medics arrived their efficiency was fantastic. You can tell that the GNAAS team are professionals at treating trauma patients. They gave me the level of care needed, and got me from Kirkstone to Preston in 24 minutes which is brilliant. It would have taken an hour by road so I have nothing but praise for them.”

Mr Sutton has been racing in triathlons for nine years and tries to complete a dozen every year. He is head coach at Invictus Triathlon Club in Wigan. After hearing the news of his crash, one club member completed a double ironman while another completed a triple ironman, raising more than £400 for GNAAS.

He said: “The club have been very supportive and my wife Ruth has been amazing and took a week off work to look after me. My daughter Hannah has also been helping me with my recovery which I’m very thankful for.”

Paul’s injuries are healing well and he hopes to be fit enough by July next year to compete in the Lakeland 50, a long distance trail race in the Lake District.

GNAAS is a charity and last year needed to raise £5.1m to survive. It responded to 1,042 call outs across the region. To see how you can help, please call 01325-487263 or visit

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