Northampton – A would-be doctor is claiming £1million (R18 million) damages over an horrific hot-air balloon crash that wrecked her plans for a medical career.
Rebecca Hay suffered agonising burns when the flight crashed into power cables and she received a huge electric shock that set her clothes alight and the balloon was shot 100ft into the air.
She was unable to scream because the 33 000 volts that surged through her body had clamped her jaws shut.
Three years on, she has married her fiance Brett Hay – who watched as the horror unfolded – and is due to give birth to a son by the end of the year.
But she has launched a legal case over the 2016 crash, claiming that the trauma and horrific burns destroyed her dream of becoming a doctor.
She is now a healthcare assistant in a maternity unit. Although she used to be a paramedic, she can scarcely bear to see a cut finger. As a result she wants £1million compensation – including loss of potential earnings from her abandoned medical career – from the Sackville Balloon Flying Group, which provided the flight.
The operator admits liability – but disputes the level of compensation. Mrs Hay, who was 21 at the time, had been watching flights in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, when she got the chance to have a free go after the sole passenger failed to turn up.
Mrs Hay, from Northampton, smiled for a selfie as she took off. But as she and the pilot waved to spectators they realised they were heading for power cables 40ft off the ground – and as they hit them, the power of the shock set her clothes and the basket on fire.
The resulting heat sent the balloon shooting another 100ft higher – freeing it from a cable – before it plummeted to earth.
In earlier interviews, Mrs Hay recalled: "I was trying to scream, but I couldn’t open my mouth as the electricity was pressing my teeth together. I thought I was going to die." The 64-year-old pilot was miraculously unhurt. Mrs Hay was airlifted to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital, where she needed four weeks’ intensive treatment and skin grafts. She even suffered vile abuse from trolls because her maiden name was Fry.
Her plan to start a course that could have led to a medical qualification was wrecked.
Mrs Hay’s case has reached the High Court in London and a full hearing is fixed for autumn next year which will focus solely on damages. Her barrister, Romilly Cummerson, explained: "She is still having difficulties, particularly in respect of her psychiatric injuries."