Liverpool crane plunge dad tells his amazing tale of survival

THE Merseyside dad thrown from his 200ft-high crane cab after it collapsed on a city apartment block today told his amazing tale of survival.

Iain Gillham has been undergoing extensive physiotherapy since he was left paralysed from the waist down following the horrific July accident.

The 53-year-old, who is expected to spend more than a year in hospital, spoke exclusively to the ECHO about his death-defying plunge at the Chandlers Wharf development in Liverpool city centre.

And Mr Gillham revealed how up to a month was wiped from his memory leaving him with no recollection of the accident.

The dad-of-four told the ECHO: “I personally remember nothing. My last memory is the night before the accident – and then four weeks later.

“I can’t believe I survived. If I’d have told somebody what happened to me they wouldn’t have given me a chance.

“My fall was apparently in stages. I was flung on to the roof (of the apartments) and then bounced down (three floors) through the hole made by the counterweight of the crane which smashed through the floor.

“To be alive after that is amazing – I can hardly believe it.”

Mr Gillham is in a wheelchair after being left with a fractured skull, two chest fractures, 11 spine fractures, a brain haemorrhage, a collapsed lung and serious crush injuries to his left shoulder and arm.

Medics rated his chance of survival at just 30%.

He spent a marathon 11 hours in theatre immediately after the crash as iron rods and fixators were attached to his spine.

Currently in Southport Hospital’s spinal unit Mr Gillham remains in severe pain and may need a further operation on his back.

He exercises in the gym most days and recently managed to sit up unaided for more than a minute.
His employer Hewden Tower Cranes (HTC) have promised him a job when he is well enough to return to work.

But it remains to be seen if Mr Gillham can return full time.

The once-keen horse rider said: “It can be four steps forward and four steps back. But I’ve got faith in the surgeons.

“I did originally set myself goals. But I have to be realistic. The long-term targets have become short term now.

“It’s a day at a time really.”

For the first time today pictures were released showing the rescue operation at the apartment building carried out by paramedics and fire crews.

Mr Gillham said he is determined to meet the emergency services staff who spent two-and-a-half hours pulling him out of the wrecked building.

With worldwide crane operating experience, he was sitting in his cab, just off the Strand, on July 6, when the 200-tonne machine vehicle suddenly toppled over, smashing into the luxury apartment block as residents relaxed in their homes.

While in hospital immediately after the accident Mr Gillham’s daughter Naomi, 20, got married to her RAF fiance Danny.

His mum also died but he was unable to attend the funeral.

In recent weeks a wedding video was made for Mr Gillham, filmed by a guest on the front row in the service, so he could watch his daughter exchange her vows.

He said: “I was supposed to be going in my top and tails. But then I ended up in hospital. My company paid for the video to be made and I had a great view and watched everything up close. It was absolutely amazing.

“What’s incredible is that you have people here (in hospital) who have been thrown off a bike and left seriously injured.

“Yet I went through such a massive fall and survived.

“It’s really nice that I get messages of support and people want to talk to me. I’ve seen people I haven’t worked with for years.

“It makes me feel really good and realise they did think something of me. It’s a demonstration that people care. And that’s a wonderful thing.”


THIS picture shows firefighters pulling Mr Gillham out from the wrecked apartment block.

Crews managed to locate the crane driver within 40 minutes of the counter-weight smashing through the four-storey building.

Station manager Ian Maxwell, the first person to reach the stricken dad-of-four, told the ECHO how they got him out.

He said: “There was a Bowmer and Kirkland manager who had located him on the first floor. The counterweight had punched a hole in the roof and Mr Gillham had dropped from above the fourth to the first.

“I got onto the first-floor roof garden using a ladder and gained access to the stairway through a small window.

“He looked buried up to his waist in debris and his left foot was sticking up. A lot of water was cascading down. He was conscious and lucid but kept saying he couldn’t hang on.

“Fortunately the search and rescue team had come into the lobby where we were and they threw me a line. I tied it around him and got another one round him and tied that to the rising main pipe.

“A paramedic got to him and assessed him and wanted to get him out of the building as soon as possible.

“We put Mr Gillham on a stretcher and passed him out the small window – barely big enough for the width of your shoulders to get through.

“It was a difficult rescue. We couldn’t go up or down the stairs as they were all damaged by the counterweight.

“On the roof garden the paramedics had a proper look at him and lowered him down using a haulage system.

“Our biggest concern inside the building was Mr Gillham slipping further.

“It was certainly one of the most dramatic rescues we’ve been involved in. I know a lot of the lads would be delighted to meet him and see how he’s progressing.”