Police officer lucky to be alive after high speed pursuit crash speaks for the first time

The aftermath of the crash.
The aftermath of the crash.

A West Yorkshire Police officer is lucky to be alive after he was seriously injured when his patrol car was hit by a career criminal in a high speed pursuit.

PC Paul Feather was in a high speed pursuit in Thornton Road, Bradford, when the vehicle he was travelling was hit by another car, sending him hurtling through the air and leaving him and his colleague fighting for their lives.

PC Paul Fletcher was left fighting for his life.

PC Paul Fletcher was left fighting for his life.

Both officers had to be cut from the wreckage, whilst the occupants of the other car, which burst into flames, were also rescued from the blaze, which happened just after midnight on November 3.

PC Feather, who has only just returned to work after four months off recovering from his injuries, has bravely spoken of his ordeal in a bid to raise awareness of PTSD.

He said: "When I came round in hospital, the consultant said to me that we should have been dead and we were very lucky.

"Not only did it affect me badly physically, but there was the psychological side too, which I feel is important to talk about.

West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Brian Booth.

West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Brian Booth.

"As a police officer you accept it as part and parcel of the job, but there needs to be more awareness out there."

PC Feather's injuries included a torn aorta, neck and back injuries, two displaced ribs, a twisted rib cage and a twisted sternum.

"I remember hearing an almighty bang and flying through the air," PC Feather said.

"After that I was wiped clean out.

"The impact of the crash was bad that it ripped my colleague's body camera of his chest.

"Our colleagues attending the crash site thought we were both dead."

Although it has taken time for PC Feather's injuries to heal, he can still feel the mental scars that the crash has left.

He was diagnosed with PTSD which has caused him acute anxiety, sleep problems and recurring memories of the crash.

He said: "For quite a while I couldn't even bring myself to get back into a car.

"I had anxiety about coming back to work and at one point I felt like I never wanted to get in a police car again.

"Once I did, whenever I went near the crash scene I would tense up and grip onto the car seat in fear of something happening again.

"It also affected my life at home. I would get angry and frustrated because I couldn't do the things I used to.

"My little boy kept referring to the nasty men who hurt daddy. He was only five at the time but he knew I wasn't myself and he got quite upset about it all."

PC Feather has spoken out about his ordeal after a recent survey carried out by Police Care UK, revealed PTSD is at 'crisis levels' among police officers in the UK.
The study of almost 17,000 police across the UK found that 95 per cent of officers and 67 per cent of operational police staff had been exposed to traumatic events, almost all of which were work-related.

Of those who had experienced trauma, 20 per cent reported symptoms in the preceding four weeks that were consistent with PTSD or the more chronic condition, Complex PTSD, which is associated with emotional numbness and disconnection.

PC Feather said: "As a police officer you do just think it is part of the job and you just try and get on with it.

"The staff at the police treatment centre helped me so much. With their help I can now put my uniform back on and get back to the job I love doing. I am now of the sentiment that it took 26 years working as a police officer for something so bad to happen. we were fortunate that day and someone was looking out for us."

The 40-year-old driver of the car is currently serving a five year prison sentence for the supply of controlled drugs.

West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Brian Booth said it is important that officers are given the help and support they need.

He said: "An officer's coping mechanism is often to accept that attacks on duty and conditions such as PTSD are part and parcel of the job, but we don't accept this at the federation.

"We will support our officers in any way we can."

Mr Booth also issued a warning following a continued rise in the number of officers assaulted across West Yorkshire on a weekly basis.

In the last week alone, 36 police officers across the force were assaulted. These include officers being kicked, punched, bitten, spat at and headbutted.

Mr Booth said: "If you carrying on breaking these officers you are not going to get the service you want."