The parents of a three-year-old boy have described their horror when he vanished down a hole while walking in the Peak District, leaving him with life-threatening injuries.
Sam Tuckett was enjoying a family day out when he suddenly disappeared as he was walking with his six-year-old brother Oscar, just a few steps ahead of his parents Louise and Mark in the Burbage Rocks area, near Hathersage.
“My husband and I just looked at each other in complete panic,” said Mrs Tuckett, 36, of Millhouses, Sheffield.
They eventually realised that Sam had fallen through a 40cm wide opening in the ground – a gap no bigger than a sheet of A3 paper.
Council manager Mr Tuckett, 40, managed to squeeze into the tiny space and realised his son had fallen 6m, hitting his head and body on the rocks as he fell.
His wife said: “Mark clambered down to get him, which made our one-year-old daughter scream as she didn’t know what was going on.
“Our eldest just asked if Sam had died. He doesn’t really know what that means yet, he just knows that it’s the worst thing that can happen.
“I told him everything was going to be OK, but I honestly didn’t know if it would be.”
Mrs Tuckett said: “I called 999 and they asked me lots of questions – was he conscious, could he move, was he breathing?
“I couldn’t see Sam, so I couldn’t answer any of them.
“I was frantically flagging down any passers-by in the hope that one of them would be a doctor or nurse and be able to help, but none of them were.”
Mrs Tuckett said her husband finally managed to bring Sam to the surface and they could see he was bleeding heavily and crying.
He carried him to the nearest road where an ambulance arrived after 15 minutes.
Mrs Tuckett described how Sam was rushed into the Emergency Department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where more than 10 members of staff saved his life.
The hospital said it was eight hours before he was stabilised.
Doctors found he had suffered a major trauma with a subdural haematoma, which is where blood collects between the skull and the brain.
He also broke his arm.
Mrs Tuckett said: “Everything goes through your mind. I was planning for the worst possible outcomes.”
But she said that Sam eventually managed to speak and tell her he wanted to go home.
“The feeling of relief was immeasurable,” Mrs Tuckett said.
“He was talking and thinking like the boy we know. For the first time, I had a genuine glimmer of hope that he would be OK. Sam could hear us talking and telling him we were with him.
“Both my husband and I held on to the thought that he’d have heard us saying we loved him, and we were staying with him while the nurses and doctors saved his life.”
He was discharged from hospital five days later.
Mrs Tuckett, who works in the NHS, said: “Sam is a bundle of energy who believes he can do anything. He has no memory of the accident but it was a day that the rest of us will never forget. We owe everything to every member of staff who helped our family in those days.”
Sam’s family are now backing the Children’s Hospital Charity’s £4.5 million appeal to transform the Emergency Department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
More details of the appeal can be found at www.tchc.org.uk/donate.