Message of hope for speedway ace

A SPEEDWAY star paralysed in an accident sadly echoed by Lawrence Hare's, today gave a message of hope – that life can go on.Ipswich-based Hare, 32, was paralysed from the neck down, as he hit the fence in a horrific crash riding for Exeter Falcons at Newport last Sunday.

By Tracey Sparling

A SPEEDWAY star paralysed in an accident tragically echoed by Lawrence Hare's, today gave a message of hope – that life can go on.

Ipswich-based Hare, 32, was paralysed from the neck down when he hit the fence in a horrific crash while riding for Exeter Falcons at Newport last Sunday.

Doctors have told him he will never walk again.

A similar horror struck John Simmons in July 1973, when he had just turned 18.

But three decades later, the 46-year-old is leading a full and active life at his home in Highfield Road, Ipswich. He remains happy rather than bitter.

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John was a promising young rider on the track for Ipswich Witches at Peterborough when another rider crashed into his bike from behind and sent him into the solid wooden fence.

He recalled: "I went head-first into the fence. I tried to get up and found out I couldn't.

"That was the end of it. I thought I'd broken my arm, but I found out later that I'd broken my neck. I was paralysed from the neck down.

"At Stoke Mandeville Hospital doctors told me I wouldn't walk again. I had realised that myself, so I had to accept it and get on with life.

"It was a case of taking each day at a time. I was quite positive about things.

"I can't say how Lawrence will be feeling because everybody copes differently, but it is very important to keep positive."

As the weeks went by, the feeling started coming back and John regained the use of his upper back, arms and wrists, but remains wheelchair-bound.

Now he lives with his mum Anita in a specially-built bungalow. He uses a stand-up wheelchair bought by the people of Ipswich 20 years ago, to stand for an hour each day.

He said: "I got on with maintaining bikes, and enjoyed doing art work.

"I watched speedway from the trackside in my wheelchair for 21 years, but then outgrew it because it became routine. I've seen Lawrence ride.

"I now spend hours on the computer and run several websites, including the Ipswich Fireworks website.

"I type with my knuckles, and once a week I teach other people with disabilities how to use computers.

"I'm never bored. If the sun shines I sit outside and enjoy the sun. I'm well happy.

"Life's not bad. It can be, if you're inclined to make it that way. But it's 29 years ago this year, and it seems like five minutes ago.

"If they developed the technology to make me walk tomorrow, I'd be riding my bike within days.

"I'd do it all again except the broken neck part!

"I knew the risks and the dangers involved."

John cautiously welcomed The Evening Star's call for air barriers, which might have prevented his own injuries 30 years ago.

But he added: "I think they should have air barriers everywhere if they protect riders better, but at the Grand Prix last year some riders were complaining about them. You can't please everybody."

Anita recalled how John saved up to buy his first bike aged just 15. Although she never saw him race, she added: "I couldn't have stopped him if I'd tried."

After John's accident and the ending of his wages, the speedway control board and people in Ipswich rallied round to help.

Anita said support and financial help were vital, especially soon after the accident. She gave a donation the Star's new fund for Lawrence.

And she said: "The support was great. It was personal as well as financial. People stopped me in the street to ask how he was. He was loved, there is no doubt about it."

In the early days after the accident she found herself numb for days, but she advised Lawrence's family not to fear the future.

She said: "You just go through the motions of everyday life, feeling a void, feeling numb.

"But you have got to keep motivated. You have to keep looking to the future. If we hadn't done, we wouldn't be where we are today."

The Evening Star is collecting money to help Lawrence and his family.

Cheques should be made payable to The Evening Star Lol Hare Appeal. They can be sent to Geraldine Thompson, Editor's Secretary, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

n What do you think about speedway safety? Write to Your Letters, at the above address, or visit the Forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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