An agoraphobic grandmother who conquered her fear of open spaces and left home for the third time in 10 years only to fall down a manhole.
Janet Faal, 57, was out with a friend in Crawley, West Sussex, as part of her rehabilitation when she moved a wooden pallet to help them reverse and plunged down into the open gap.
She now has two black eyes and a suspected fractured leg after smashing her face on the pallet and was left in a ‘splits’ position as only one of her legs went down the hole when she slipped.
The grandmother-of-four said: ‘I was with a friend helping her reverse out of a car park, and there was this wooden pallet in the way. I moved the pallet out of the way with my foot and I was going to turn around to my friend say “is that far enough?”. I took a step over – never in my life did I think there was a hole underneath, I thought it had just fallen over. The next thing I remember is the pain. It was awful. I fell and smashed my face on the pallet, and I was in the hole with blood all over me and I couldn’t move.’
She reckons she has been set back ‘years’ in her battle with the debilitating condition, which has left her housebound for a decade, and fears she’ll never leave her home again.
Miss Faal, who lives in Crawley, said: ‘It’s hard for me to go anywhere, but I was getting better. Now I’m not so sure.’
She spent nearly an hour waiting in agony on the forecourt of Complete Tyre Services on Friday, April 10, before a paramedic arrived to take her to East Surrey hospital.
Her son Andy MacDonald, 39, a painter and decorator, said: ‘I’m absolutely livid. Whoever owns that manhole should get it fixed and get it fixed right now.
‘It’s ruined my mother’s recovery. I can’t believe it. Whoever owns that manhole has something serious to answer for.
‘I’m self-employed, and I have to take time off work to care for my disabled mum, who has been knocked for six by negligence.
‘If she was smaller she would have gone all of the way down – a slender woman or child could have been very seriously hurt.’
An employee at the company, where Miss Faal’s friend had driven her to get a new tyre for her car, claimed the holes have been reported ‘loads of times’ to the owner of the site.
The site is leased from the owner of JP Supplies, which sells safety clothing to the construction industry in the neighbouring unit.
A spokesman for South East Coast Ambulance Service confirmed its attendance and explained why it took so long for an ambulance to arrive.
He said: ‘When the call came in, with the information provided by the caller, it was classified as a “class C” call. We always do our best to back up the first paramedic as soon as we can but life-threatening calls have to take priority.’
Neither the tyre shop or their landlord JP Supplies are accepting responsibility for fixing the broken manhole.
A worker at the garage said: ‘We have been trying to get the manholes in the forecourt fixed for years, but what’s happened is they were covered with pallets.’
The building owner, who also runs nearby business JP Services, said: ‘They are the tenants, so it’s down to them to fix the manhole cover.
‘I’m the landlord, but they have not spoken to me about it.’