Ashley aims to save lives - Accident victim backs campaign

PUBLISHED: 15:49 25 June 2009 | UPDATED: 11:16 10 June 2010

TEN years ago 15-year-old Ashley Cousins stole a car from Exmouth – a decision which was to leave him severely brain damaged and disabled.

TEN years ago 15-year-old Ashley Cousins stole a car from Exmouth - a decision which was to leave him severely brain damaged and disabled.

Now the 25-year-old hopes telling his story will save lives and prevent other teenagers from following in his footsteps.

In 1999, Ashley was left in a coma and doctors had to remove 25 per cent of his brain after his friend driving the stolen car lost control of the vehicle and smashed it into a wall.

Ten years after the accident, Ashley cannot walk, talk, swallow food and is severely disabled.

He has to speak using a computer, which turns his words into speech.

Ashley, who lives at a Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust care centre in Cullompton, Devon, is highlighting a new safety campaign by the charity and hopes his story will serve as a warning to others.

Ashley said he only had himself to blame for his injuries.

He said: "I just wanted to have a bit of fun in my life. I'd split up with my girlfriend so I stole a car with a few friends."

Ashley had been living in Exmouth with his gran and stole a car from the town. When the vehicle was spotted and tailed by police, the driver lost control of the vehicle near Trago Mills, in Newton Abbot.

Ashley said: "There had been some problems at home and by the time I was a teenager, I went to live with my gran in Exmouth.

"They were good times, but I started getting into trouble, smoking weed and nicking cars. I had to go to court, and they sent me to see a social worker

"I just wanted to have a bit of fun in my life. I'd split up with my girlfriend so I stole a car with a few friends.

"We put some speed on to look good, if we did get caught.

"If it wasn't for the smoking and drinking I don't think we'd have lost control of the car. It smashed sideways into a wall. I don't remember anything after that.

"The first person I saw when I woke up was my gran. I was so pleased to see her, but I thought I'd been through some kind of hell.

"Every night when I am alone, I still think about the accident.

"I would like to warn other people not to make the same mistake I did and mess up their lives in the same way.

"I also want to tell them not to listen to their friends because it's your life, not theirs.

"I only have myself to blame."

Ashley's grandmother, Joan Fathers, was amazed he survived.

She said: "At first I wished that he had died because he was so seriously injured.

"I didn't think there was any hope for him at the time.

"Now I'm very proud of him because he says that if he only saves one life he will be well rewarded.

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