A man has been left fighting for his life in hospital after being paralysed in a freak injury on a ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Robert Sycamore, 58, is being kept alive by a life support machine at the Royal Preston Hospital after he broke his neck while riding on the Grand National.
Mr Sycamore, who was known to suffer from spondylitis, inflammation of the vertebrae in the back, was visiting the resort with his family when he took his great-nephew on their first ride of the day at the park. But he was unable to get out of the train and had to be cut free by firefighters.
His distraught family today said it is a mystery how he was so seriously injured. Darren Parlour, Mr Sycamore’s nephew, said: “My son was with him and he’s come back screaming. Rob’s a big bloke and he was down in the footwell of the carriage.
“His ear was on his shoulder and he was totally blue and black.
“His neck snapped – the muscles collapsed and he’s just melted into the seat.
“I climbed in with Rob and was holding his head so it didn’t move.
“The emergency services were unbelievable – how he stayed alive, I don’t know.”
The family have now been left waiting to see if Mr Sycamore, who remains in a critical condition after being cut out of the ride, will pull through.
“The surgeon said they can only take things minute by minute but any use of his body is a definite no,” added Mr Parlour.
“The main concern now is keeping his heart and lungs going.
“We don’t know how it happened or why it happened. We don’t blame anyone, we are just shocked.
“We don’t know if he hit his head – only time will tell.”
“He used to work as a JCB driver and that jolts you and bangs you about,” he added.
He said members of the family are now facing making a 700-mile round trip from their homes in Norwich and Ipswich, where Mr Sycamore lives with his wife Sylvia, to visit him in hospital.
A spokesman for Blackpool Pleasure Beach said there appears to be no mechanical problem with the ride He said: “There was an incident on the Grand National in which Robert Sycamore required emergency treatment from the emergency services.
“We do wish Mr Sycamore the earliest recovery and we are in contact with his family.
“Our enquiries have not revealed any faults or problems with the ride which has carried almost 500,000 guests in 2014 without incident. We do now understand that Mr Sycamore had an underlying back condition.”
A North West Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We got a call at 12.40pm on Friday to a male patient in his 50s at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with potential neck injuries.
“He was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital.”
A Lancashire Fire and Rescue spokesman confirmed crews had been sent to assist paramedics.
The Grand National wooden rollercoaster was first designed in 1935 and remains one of just three rides of its kind left in the world.
It is a twin track ride which sees two trains “compete” with each other on parallel 6,600ft tracks at speeds of up to 50mph.
In May 2004 the ride hit the headlines after it was badly damaged by a fire.