Robert Wood was doing maintenance work on the 106-year-old bells at Middleham Parish Church, in Wensleydale, when he slipped and fell several feet onto part of the mechanism, impaling his chin on a metal peg.
The impact smashed Robert’s jaw and narrowly missed the major blood vessels in his neck. Amazingly, the 62-year-old managed to make his way down the tower to a shocked colleague who called the emergency services.
Fearing major blood vessel and nerve damage, Yorkshire Air Ambulance airlifted the retired environmental health officer to the major trauma centre at James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough.
His freak accident will feature in the January 30 episode of Helicopter ER, the UKTV series that follows the life-saving work of Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Robert, a regular bell ringer at Ripon Cathedral, underwent a four-hour operation to repair his shattered jaw, which is now held together by metal plates, and spent five days in hospital.
“I was at the top of the tower, walking across the metal bell frame when I missed my footing and ended up landing chin-first onto a piece of the bell mechanism which had a rusty metal peg on the end,” said Robert from Ripon.
“I managed to get myself off that and make my way down the ladder. It’s amazing what you can do with adrenalin.
“The land and then air ambulance were there very quickly and I was just so grateful to be flown to hospital within minutes. They saved me from what would have been a long and painful journey of over an hour on winding roads.”
Robert is making a second attempt at a special bell ringing marathon on Saturday (January 14) at Ripon Cathedral, in a bid to raise the estimated £4,000 cost of his air ambulance flight.