Moto-cross rider suffers horrific crash

By Jonathan Barnes and Rebecca SheppardA TEENAGE moto-cross rider has been told she has a “one in a million” chance of walking again after an horrific racing accident.

By Jonathan Barnes and Rebecca Sheppard

A TEENAGE moto-cross rider has been told she has a “one in a million” chance of walking again after an horrific racing accident.

Laurie Squirrell, 16, the first female in the country to be awarded expert status in the sport, broke her back in a high-speed crash as she practised for her first professional race in San Antonio, Texas.

Doctors have told the Stowmarket High School pupil she will be paralysed from the chest down for life, but her family are hoping she may be able to undergo pioneering stem-cell treatment and have been amazed by her courage and determination to fight back.

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Speaking yesterday from the teenager's bedside at the University Hospital, San Antonio, her mother Julie, 37, said Laurie was in high spirits and “100% positive” about the future.

“She's laughing and joking and taking the mickey out of everybody - the doctors can't believe it,” said Mrs Squirrell, from Hitcham.

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Laurie, who raced 125cc bikes, had taken a year out of studying to pursue her moto-cross career and was at the start of her “dream trip” to the USA.

She had flown out with her father, Richard, 38, to compete in the Women's Moto-cross Association championships and suffered the injuries during a practice session on the Cycle Ranch MX.

“She wasn't happy because she wanted to go faster, so she put her foot down, went round a corner and then she hit a wet patch,” said Mrs Squirrell.

“The bike flipped and hit her on the head and then did another flip on to her back. She has broken T2, T4 and T5 in her back and shattered T6, and is paralysed from below the breast.”

Mr Squirrell did not see the crash and went looking for Laurie when he could not see her on the track. He found following five minutes of searching, after which she regained consciousness and was airlifted to hospital.

Mrs Squirrell, who runs transport firm Squirrells Coaches with her husband, flew out to the USA on Saturday with her two other daughters, Sam, 18, and Kizzy, 15, and said she had been overwhelmed by Laurie's bravery.

“She asked the surgeon what her chances were of recovering and he told her one in a million. We all cried together and since then she hasn't looked back,” she added.

“Laurie said 'I've accepted that I'm going to be in a wheelchair, but it's not going to stop me doing anything'.

“She's so determined. She says she's going to go back to do her A-levels and start a website to help teenagers who have had the same injury.

“She says she still wants to go to race meetings and maybe go into coaching. She really is amazing.”

Mrs Squirrell said it had been Laurie's first time in the U.S. and she had dreamed of going there for 10 years.

“She is so glad she got to do it and says she has lived her dream. So many people have come to see her and have been raising money for her,” she added.

Laurie's mother said there was “a little bit of hope” of her daughter walking again with the possibility of her undergoing stem-cell treatment.

“We're hoping she may be able to go to Colorado for the treatment. We have faxed off her papers and we're waiting to see what the chances are,” added Mrs Squirrell.

Last night, the teenager underwent an operation to pin and stabilise her back so she will be able to sit up.

She also received a boost when she regained some feeling in her stomach and was told some of her reflexes were still good.

Mrs Squirrell added: “She is 100% positive and we are going to stay out here and support her until she can go home.”

The promising moto-cross rider was upgraded in October to expert status from 2005, becoming the first female to achieve the honour in British moto-cross history.

Miki Keller, president of the Women's Moto-cross Association, said: “She came over to pro-race over here. We invite the top women from all around the world and she was the top rider in England.

“She's in really good spirits; she's a really strong girl with an incredible personality. She's been saying that's she's just disappointed that she did not get a go at a race.

“Everyone at the race has pulled together. We do a prayer at the racing and everyone has been talking about her and has raised money for her.

Laurie has won numerous moto-cross awards and this year was her first racing against adults.

Charles Ralph, the East Anglian Daily Times' moto-cross correspondent, said: “This is a tremendous blow. She was a little bit unique and she will be missed from the sport terribly.”

n The East Anglian air ambulance had to airlift moto-cross rider Charlie Copping from Tunstall Forest on Sunday afternoon following a crash.

Paramedics immobilised the 55-year-old's spine, gave him pain relief, oxygen and intravenous fluids before flying him to Ipswich Hospital for treatment to suspected rib fractures and other injuries.

The accident meant the main group final of the Woodbridge and District Motorcycle Club had to be cancelled.

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