AN evening of celebration turned to horror for police officers Emyr and Angela Williams when they were involved in a collision with a drink driver.
The husband and wife – both PCs with Dyfed-Powys Police – planned to toast Angela’s success on May 25, 2018, but ended up in hospital after colliding with a man who got behind the wheel after a couple of pints.The couple, who work in Learning and Development, were with their now five-year-old daughter when a car suddenly pulled out of a pub car park, forcing Emyr to carry out an emergency police technique to avoid direct impact and fatal consequences.
They have spoken about the traumatic incident – and the ongoing effect on their family – as part of the force’s drink-drive campaign.
Figures show that between March and June 2020, officers arrested 141 people on suspicion of drink driving. This is a decrease of 29 per cent compared with last year, but officers anticipate the Government’s easing of lockdown restrictions could see these figures rise.
The number of drug drive arrests, however, has risen by 136 per cent – with 317 people arrested in the same three months, compared with 134 in 2019.
The force has launched Operation Oakridge – a response to the demand it expects to face as Coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Part of this will focus on drink driving, with roads policing officers visible across the force area as roads become busier and licensed premises reopen.
Looking back, Emyr explained that they were on their way home when the collision occurred.
“Angela had just signed off a big piece of work, and we’d picked up a bottle of fizz to celebrate,” he said. “Megs asked if we could go to M&S for a cup of tea, but I didn’t think, and automatically turned off to go home instead of carrying on.
“We were coming up to a pub on a nasty bend, and as we approached an Audi SUV pulled out directly into our path. I instinctively used a technique I was taught at driver training way back in 1999 to avoid hitting him straight on.”
Despite hitting his head, Emyr jumped out of the car to check on his wife and daughter, who was screaming in the back.
“My concern was Ange and Megs,” he said. “As an officer, you’re taught all these things like don’t go back to the car, but I just needed to know they were ok.”
Because of the dangerous location, three police units were immediately sent to the scene, along with two ambulances.
The Audi driver was breathalysed, and arrested for providing a positive breath test.
“One of the officers later told their inspector they were expecting the collision to be a fatal because of the location,” Emyr said.
“That was really quite hard to hear. If I hadn’t reacted as I had, one of us could have been killed.”
The husband and wife were taken to hospital in separate ambulances, with Angela shocked to see Emyr being wheeled out on a spinal board when they arrived.
“Megs was discharged at the scene and bounced back quite quickly, thankfully,” Emyr said. “She was back in school on the Monday, telling everyone about her adventure.
“The first time we had to drive down that road was hard for her though – she really didn’t want to go past there.”
While Megs was unhurt physically, Emyr and Angela are still suffering over two years on.
Emyr has lasting effects including migraines, dizziness, and tinnitus caused by post-concussion syndrome and an extreme narrowing of his vertebrae.
Angela spent 12 weeks in plaster after suffering multiple fractures, went through months of physiotherapy, and was finally diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome. She is now getting to grips with learning she might never have full movement in her hand, and is likely to be in pain for the rest of her life.
“It’s had a huge impact on me – from being in constant pain and not being able to drive, down to having to teach myself to write left-handed,” she said.
“If I think back, I can remember going round the windy bit of road and seeing the car. I thought it was a close miss, then the impact came.
“All I could hear was Megs screaming. My hand instantly swelled up from the fractures, but I pulled her out of the car and held her as tightly as I could.”
Angela was upset to find out the driver had been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving. He was one-and-a-half times over the limit, and was sentenced to a 15 month driving ban.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Drink driving has always been one of my hates, and I’ve always done all I could to take part in operational campaigns to cut down the number of incidents.
“The driver has served his ban now, and is likely to be back on the road. For us, the physical and mental impact is ongoing, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever fully recover.
“And this is all because of someone else’s actions. He lived less than a mile from the pub – why didn’t he just get a taxi?”
As the summer campaign launches, the force has released figures showing that since the beginning of March there has been a decrease in the number of arrests for drink driving compared with last year.
Chief Inspector Tom Sharville said: “We’re anticipating that these figures might begin to climb with restrictions being lifted, people able to travel more widely, and licensed premises beginning to open again.
“As the summer holidays start, and visitor numbers are already on the up, we would like to remind people of the devastating impact drink and drug driving can have.
“Our colleagues Emyr and Angela have explained how they have been affected by the thoughtless actions of one driver, who could have cost them their lives. To think of the potential devastation that could have been caused with their young daughter in the car doesn’t bear thinking about.”