Lucky escape for Exmouth's mayor
EXMOUTH'S youngest-ever mayor was just inches from death when a lorry wheel broke loose and cannoned into his car at high speed. A crash inspector told Darryl Nicholas, 30, that he was lucky to be alive after both back wheels of a 7.5 tonne accident recovery lorry fell off
EXMOUTH'S youngest-ever mayor was just inches from death when a lorry wheel broke loose and cannoned into his car at high speed.
A crash inspector told Darryl Nicholas, 30, that he was lucky to be alive after both back wheels of a 7.5 tonne accident recovery lorry fell off - with one careering across the carriageway and smashing into his car.
Councillor Nicholas was driving back from a meeting, along the A38 Devon Expressway towards Exeter, at about 8.30pm.
Driving at 60mph, he had just come to the brow of the steep Haldon Hill, when he noticed the flashing lights of a recovery lorry on the inside lane.
"I couldn't tell if it was moving or not," he said.
"I gave it lots of room and overtook.
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"I presumed there had been an accident.
"I just didn't realise I was about to be in it."
The instant he overtook, the rear driver's side wheel of the vehicle flew across the dual carriageway, smashing into the front of the mayor's car and then underneath - lifting his Fiat Punto off the road.
"A dark object came across the carriageway. There was a loud bang and I saw sparks. My first concern was that I had hit something or someone."
Councillor Nicholas battled to steer his car on the dual carriageway, skidding about 20 metres and onto the verge.
After the loose wheel hit the mayor's car, it bounced over the central reservation and smashed into a Skoda travelling up the hill in the opposite direction.
A shaken Cllr Nicholas was later told by crash inspectors if the huge wheel had been a few inches higher, it would have smashed right through his windscreen.
"The airbag didn't go off - so I felt a bit concussed the next morning.
"It was a close thing. I understand the car travelling the other direction was a complete right-off.
"It was a miracle that everyone walked away from this. It was only sheer luck that someone was not seriously injured."
Cllr Nicholas' car was written off - the front driverside wheel was wedged into the bodywork and the drive shaft and underneath of the car heavily damaged.
The inside lane of the carriageway was closed for several hours.