VIDEO: Banbury crash victim shares how drink-driver changed his life

Mark Richards was open about the effects the crash has had on his life. Photo: YouTube/Thames Valley Police
Mark Richards was open about the effects the crash has had on his life. Photo: YouTube/Thames Valley Police

A former firefighter who suffered life-changing injuries after a drink driver crashed into him in Banbury shared his heart-breaking story as part of a police campaign launched today (Friday, December 1).

The month-long campaign from Thames Valley Police emphasises that driving under the influence of either drink or drugs is not worth the risk.

Mark Richards had to give up his job as a firefighter after a motorist three times over the alcohol limit crashed into his motorcycle on Oxford Road in July.

The driver, Arunas Kirilka, of Kennington Road, Oxford, was jailed for two years in September but Mr Richards said his and family's life has been changed forever.

"His one decision to get in his car and drive through Banbury like he did and hit me, okay he's been sentenced and banned for five years but my life now has changed," Mr Richards told Thames Valley Police in an emotional video.

"Not just mine but the family as well, everything has had a knock on effect. What is there to say? He's done the deed, I have got to live with this."

Mark Richards had to give up his career as a firefighter. Photo: Thames Valley Police

Mark Richards had to give up his career as a firefighter. Photo: Thames Valley Police

Mr Richards, who is in his 40s, says in the video that he used to be very active, running for Vale of Aylesbury Athletic Club, as well as cycling and 'dabbling' in triathlons.

But all that changed after Kirilka lost control of his vehicle outside the Horton General Hospital and careered into a central island, colliding into the back of Mr Richards' motorbike.

The father-of-four sustained a shattered pelvis, right shoulder, five broken ribs and a punctured left lung.

"I checked my mirrors and remember seeing a block Volvo coming at speed and thinking, 'blimey that's going quick'," he said.

Mark Richards was in a wheelchair for six weeks after the crash. Photo: Thames Valley Police

Mark Richards was in a wheelchair for six weeks after the crash. Photo: Thames Valley Police

"And then I was hit. I didn't lose consciousness but I don't remember the bit between him hitting me and me hitting the floor.

"Watching the CCTV it was quite sobering to be honest, it brought me to tears, it was quite a scary thing that I didn't realise that the guy that hit me had also driven through me and hit the car in front."

Kirilka was breathalysed at the scene, where he blew 84 microgrammes per 100ml of breath.

He was arrested and in custody his reading went up to 93mg per 100ml of breath on the evidential breathalyser machine - the legal limit is 35mg.

Mark Richards was also a keen runner but his mobility has been severely restricted by his injuries. Photo: Thames Valley Police

Mark Richards was also a keen runner but his mobility has been severely restricted by his injuries. Photo: Thames Valley Police

Mr Richards said he could not understand how someone could get into a car three times over the legal limit as 'you can't walk straight let alone be in charge of a car'.

The crash victim was in a wheelchair for six weeks and is unable to get his arm above his shoulder, plus he has been told he will need a hip replacement in the near future.

Mr Richards cries remembering the first thing his 10-year-old son child said to him in hospital the day after the crash, who has been really affected by the accident.

"One of the first questions was about how long before I can get out of bed as it happened just before the summer holidays and whether it would be more than six weeks as we wouldn't be able to play football," he said.

Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary are working together as part of the two forces’ Joint Operations Unit to deter and detect drink and drug drivers who affect lives like Kirilka has affected Mr Richards'.

Members of the public are encouraged to report drink or drug drivers by calling 999 if the person is an immediate risk, otherwise ring 101 with the details of the last seen location of the vehicle, make, colour and registration, if known.

Alternatively, people can contact Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111.

Drug driving and drink is recognised by independent research as one of the ‘fatal four’ factors that results in collisions that cause people to be killed or seriously injured.

Officers from both forces will be conducting operations throughout December across the areas of Thames Valley, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

If they suspect someone may be impaired by drugs they are authorised to carry out a roadside drug test which will detect any trace of an illegal drug.

Road Safety Sergeant for Thames Valley Police, Chris Appleby, said: “Drug and drink driving are both very serious offences and all drivers need to understand the gravity and consequences of their actions if they drink and drive. If you are not sure, then it is not worth the risk.”

“Operation Holly is designed to be a deterrent to any motorist thinking about driving while impaired by the effects of drugs or alcohol. The importance of personal responsibility for your choices must be emphasised.

“Please think about the pain and misery you could inflict on innocent road users by a reckless decision to drive or ride after taking drugs or consuming alcohol.

“Drug drivers should realise we can now test on the roadside for certain drugs. Only a trace amount of an illegal drug in a person’s system could lose them their licence like drink driving. We do not need to prove you are impaired.”

Motorists breaking the law can face a criminal conviction, a prison sentence, driving ban, and the loss of your job.

As part of the campaign every driver involved in a collision will be asked to provide a specimen of breath in accordance with the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Extra patrols will also be carried out based on intelligence about suspected offenders on drug and drink driving.

Sgt Appleby added: “I ask people to remember particularly that it is not possible specifically to say how much alcohol you can drink and stay below the limit.

"The way alcohol affects you varies depending on your personal characteristics.

“A conviction for drink/drug driving has the potential to ruin a person’s life and the incident itself the potential to cause serious injury or death on the roads - it’s not worth the risk.”