At just five years old, Piero Zizzi was enjoying a fun-filled day out at a local family attraction. That was until the last ride of the day, The Snake Train.
It was Sunday 9th July 1995, and Piero, now 31, recalls that fateful day: “I sat with my Dad and a friend, also five-years-old, in a carriage.”
As The Snake Train commenced its ride, circling fast around trees along dirt tracks, it exceeded its recommended operating speed and this caused the carriages to tip.
“As I flew out of the carriage and into a tree, I tore my leg open.”
Piero lay, where he had landed on the floor, drifting in and out of consciousness.
Helen Thomas, Piero’s mother, remembers the terrible day: “The ride’s second time around seemed to be going faster. I saw the ride go past where I was standing and then back out of view. I then heard a bang and screaming. As a mother I prayed it wasn’t my child, all my nightmares came true.”
After jumping the barrier, Helen found Piero with multiple critical injuries. Onsite medics were seeing to many patients, some of whom were unconscious, and informed her that ambulances were on the way.
‘County Air Ambulance’, as Midlands Air Ambulance Charity was formally known, arrived from its RAF Cosford airbase in Shropshire.
Paramedics found Piero had a fractured skull, in addition to other head injuries, which caused his brain to swell. Both of his legs were fractured, he had a crushed pelvis, damage to the roof of his mouth with several teeth knocked out, lacerations to his thighs and feet and nerve damage.
Due to the severity of Piero’s injuries and the concern that he may also have an internal bleed, it was decided that it was best he was conveyed to hospital via air ambulance.
He was airlifted, accompanied by his father, Vincenzo, to Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, where other patients from the same incident had been taken.
Upon arrival to hospital, Piero was put into an induced coma and taken to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital due to the severity of his injuries. He was later transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Helen adds: “They were telling us about all of the injuries he had sustained, but it was hard to take it all in. He had brain swelling so we didn’t know if he had suffered any brain damage.”
Piero spent time in intensive care for a few weeks. He was put under the care of numerous specialists and underwent multiple operations, including maxillofacial surgery.
After spending roughly five months in hospital, Piero was finally discharged home and followed up with regular outpatient appointments. He then had to endure further operations as his head injury had become infected.
Piero recounts: “I spent 13 years seeing numerous specialists including psychologists and psychotherapists as I suffered from flashbacks and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”
Despite struggling to exercise following his incident, Piero has pursued a career in the sports industry and is now a director at a sports marketing and sponsorship agency. He is also the founder and chair of the ‘Proud Baggies’ – West Bromwich Albion’s LGBTQ+ Supporters’ Group and co-founder of Pride House Birmingham (the LGBTQ+ House for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022).
Piero concludes: “Midlands Air Ambulance saved my life, so I am forever indebted to them. I would not be here if it wasn’t for their speedy response and critical care.
“I will be forever grateful for everything the staff did for me and my family. I have huge respect for the work they do day in, day out – saving the lives of many.
“At the time, I was too young to understand what an air ambulance was but have now donated to the cause many times.”