FOR Leah Washington, 2015 was a year when her world was turned upside down by a horrifying rollercoaster crash as she enjoyed a date at a theme park.
The 18-year-old from Barnsley was in the front row of the Smiler ride at Alton Towers when it crashed into an empty carriage, leaving her with devastating injuries that meant medics were forced to amputate her left leg.
Since the crash in June, which could easily have killed her, Miss Washington has been battling to get back to a normal life. Initially only able to use her prosthetic leg for a few minutes at a time, many hours of physiotherapy now mean she is strong enough to keep it on all day.
Her bravery in using her experiences for good, by helping to raise thousands of pounds for Yorkshire Air Ambulance, was highlighted last week in The Yorkshire Post’s Christmas Honours.
She and boyfriend Joe Pugh, 19, from Barnsley, who was also injured in the crash, brought in £21,000 for the charity, while the couple have also appeared at the national Pride of Britain awards to present an award to the medics who helped save her life.
Reflecting on the last six months, Miss Washington told The Yorkshire Post that the horror of her near-fatal accident had led her to life experiences she never would have expected.
She said: “It is a good thing that Joe and I went through it together because we can talk about it together, we went through the same thing so we understand where each other are coming from. The experiences we have had, like having a charity event that raised £21,000, is something we wouldn’t have had if what happened to us didn’t happen.
“Going to the Pride of Britain awards and going on TV are all great experiences that wouldn’t have happened if the accident hadn’t happened. Support from our friends and family, and even people we don’t know, has been amazing.”
The teenager, who wants to be a teacher, was meant to go to Leeds Trinity University this September but decided she was not ready. She said: “The place is deferred, I haven’t decided what I am doing yet. I haven’t decided whether to have another year off to get myself back to where I was before. I don’t want to rush things and go back before I am ready.”
And although the events at Alton Towers still come up in her thoughts daily, Miss Washington says she does not bear any anger towards the theme park: “They have been so supportive with us and so helpful.”