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Baroness guitarist John Baizley describes tour bus crash
The guitarist of an American rock band whose tour bus plunged down a viaduct on its way to Southampton has described the incident in graphic detail, blaming a brake failure for the crash.
Baroness band member John Baizley was on board the German-registered coach when it crashed through a safety barrier in torrential rain and fell 30ft on August 15.
He said no one can believe they survived the impact in his first statement since the crash which was posted on the band's website.
Baizley suffered a badly broken arm and leg when he was thrown into the windscreen of the coach.
The band, from Savannah in Georgia, were on the British leg of their European tour travelling from Bristol to a gig in Southampton.
The coach, carrying nine people, left the road at the junction of Brassknocker Hill and the A36 near Bath, Somerset, at around 11.30am.
Baizley said: ''The brakes in our bus failed completely on an incredibly steep, 12%-grade hill in Monkton Combe.
''Our bus went entirely out of control, and we had no choice other than hitting a perpendicular guardrail going about 50mph at the bottom of the hill.
''The guardrail and the 20 or 30 trees we ploughed through snapped like matchsticks as we went fully airborne and fell down more than 30 feet off of a viaduct to the ground below.
''I was up front with our driver and I bore witness to the entire thing. Once our brakes failed, the bus could do little more than gain momentum and plummet down the hill.
''There was nothing anyone on the bus could have done during our descent to avoid the crash, and no one, the local residents, the police or any of us can believe we survived the impact.''
The guitarist said time slowed down as he and the driver realised they were going to crash.
''There were almost two minutes during which I knew we were heading for a collision. It felt like two hours,'' he said.
''I remember the sound of the air-brakes failing, and the panicked cursing of our driver as we slowly realised how desperate the situation was.
''I remember the sounds of confusion from behind me as our collective terror rose.
''I remember seeing the guardrail split, then a cluster of trees smacking against the front windshield.
''While we were airborne, my eyes met with our driver's. I knew then that we each shared the same look on our face, and I won't soon forget it.
''We had spent enough time in the air to appreciate, make peace with and accept a fate we thought inevitable, and we looked at one another with a horribly silent goodbye in our eyes.''
He said when the bus hit the ground, he ''flew like a missile'' into the windscreen and recalled the ''overwhelming pain'' that surged through his body.
''I can still see the double-paned auto glass turning blue and the spider-webbing cracks spreading outwards from the impact my body made. I hit the glass so hard that the entire windshield flew from the frame to the ground, and I bounced back inside the bus. I landed on the ledge of the windshield.
''I surveyed the damage to see instantly that my left leg was very obviously and badly broken. My right arm was covered in burns, blood and broken glass, but working well enough. My left arm was crushed beyond belief.
''There was one moment in the crash that cut me deeply. For one heartbeat and one tiny sliver of time, I became disconnected entirely. It was, specifically, the moment I impacted with the glass.
''In that barest heartbeat of a moment, I came face to face with the infinite. I didn't see a light, or the tunnel or hear any music. Nor did I get a 'best-of' montage of my life. Instead, I felt the tip of my nose brush up against the very same fate I had accepted moments before.
''When the moment passed and I heard the screaming, felt the pain, I was overcome with joy. I was ecstatic to be back amidst all that chaos and horror because it was alive and real.
''I finally glimpsed the relative importance of all things. The support of our fans, our friends and our families has real meaning to me now. I say that now honestly, without false humility. Thank you. Everyone.''
The band members were taken to hospital in Bath while the driver of the coach was airlifted to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol.
''I was hospitalised for two weeks, following an eight-hour surgery in which my arm was rebuilt with the aid of two massive titanium plates, 20 screws and a foot-and-a-half of wire,'' he said.
''I have just this past week returned back to the US and my home, where I am wheelchair-bound for another several weeks of physical therapy, learning to use my arm and leg again.''
Drummer Allen Blickle and bassist Matt Maggioni, who were left with fractured vertebrae, and guitarist Pete Adams, who escaped with more minor injuries, have also returned to America.
Baizley said that while he is unable to lift a glass of water to drink with his left arm and hand, he is able to play music with it.
''I picked up a guitar and played the day after I returned. Not without pain (for the time being), but the hand still acts out the creative impulses I give it,'' he said.
''In spite of this and against my logic and reason, when I pick up an instrument, my hand remembers exactly what to do.''
The band member said the crash has spurred him to move forward with Baroness and they would be back on tour as soon as possible.
''It isn't going to happen next week nor will it be next month. But it will happen,'' he said.
''This accident has inflicted an injury which has left its mark on the band: physically, mentally and spiritually.
''We cannot allow this accident, which I believe is unrelated to the band or our music, to slow down or stifle what has become so much more than a passionate hobby for the four of us.
''I can say, after nearly six weeks of reflection, that I feel more resolute and passionate about our music than ever.''