RETIRED teachers Chris and Peter Horrocks were to find themselves on the receiving end of every parent’s worst nightmare phone call.

Twelve thousand miles from home at Kington, their 31-year-old son Mark had suffered terrible injuries in an horrific 100ft fall.

Landing on concrete, his chances of survival were slim. The anguish endured by his family as they made their long-haul flight to be at his hospital bedside in Australia can only be imagined.

Eleven years later, Chris has written an account of that event on February 1, 2008, and after many agonising months, what was to be her son’s “miraculous” recovery.

A highly successful PE teacher in New Zealand and about to make a career change, Mark, who had earlier played for Kington Cricket Club and for his county, had been watching Australia play India with friends at Melbourne’s landmark MCG sports stadium when disaster struck.

He has no memory of his catastrophic fall from a top tier escalator; only later calculations have shown the 2.47-second drop would have reached a speed of 54mph.

Writing her book has been cathartic for former domestic science teacher, Chris and for her husband, an acclaimed artist.

Recounting the events of that time has inevitably brought back overwhelming emotions. Mark’s catalogue of injuries included a fractured femur, broken wrists, multiple facial fractures, collapsed lungs and a broken toe.

En route to his bedside, Mark’s parents and sister, Katharine had to stop off in Hong Kong while their plane was refuelled.

“We all had our own emotions but dared not ask the others how they felt. I think we knew anyway. That journey to the other side of the world would be brutal,” writes Chris.

“As soon as possible, Katharine was on her phone to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. Her face told us everything. Remarkably, she was put through to the Intensive Care nurse at Mark’s bedside only to be told, ‘things are not good, he has taken a turn for the worse, he may not last the night’.”

When they arrived at the hospital, Mark was in a medically induced coma and there were real concerns about the extent of brain injury.

Remarkably, there was no damage to any vital organs and no spinal injuries.

“Nothing could prepare me for what I saw as I approached the bed,” Chris explains.

“He looked as though he had doubled in size, inflated. He had wires and tubes coming from most parts of his body including his skull. He did not look alive or really like the Mark we all knew and loved.”

Even so, Chris found herself leaning over his bed and stating firmly: “I know that you are not going to die.”  

In ‘Over the Edge’, Chris has given a frank account of those unspeakably difficult weeks and months. Despite it all, her book is a highly positive one. Proceeds of the sales will go to St John Ambulance, Victoria in thanks for the life-saving ministrations of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, first-aiders at the scene that fateful day, and of course to the Alfred Hospital.

As the “miraculous outcome” of Mark’s story unfolds, readers can only be uplifted by the triumph of hope over despair.

The book deals with Mark’s determined recovery, his promise to himself that he would run the Auckland half-marathon, and the continuation of that new career – which had been abruptly halted by his accident - selling medical supplies in New Zealand.

He even delivered a moving speech at the St John Conference in Melbourne in praise of the organisation.

As with all feelgood stories, there is a liberal dose of romance.

Mark was to meet Tamara in New Zealand, and the couple married on Waiheke Island in 2015.

As his niece, Lucy Towle has written in her grandmother’s book: “My uncle is a hero to me because of what he has been through. Now he is married and living a happy life and hopefully they will be together forever.”

  • For copies of Over the Edge by Christine Horrocks, available at £10, email or call 01544 230919.