Drive For Change

Man lucky to be alive after 70ft plunge

  • Lucky to survive: Franklyn Roberts is shown at the shoreline across the Little Sound from Five Star Island with his car in the background. Blind in one eye, Mr Roberts was driving east on Middle Road when something flew into his good eye and he lost control of his car, and plunged over the 70-foot cliff (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Franklyn Roberts (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Franklyn Roberts (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Heavy damage: Franklyn Roberts’s car is shown at the shoreline across from Five Star Island with his car in the background. Blind in one eye, Mr Roberts was driving east on Middle Road when something flew into his good eye and he lost control of his car, and plunged over the 70-foot cliff (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Franklyn Roberts (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A 60-year-old man whose car plunged about 70 feet down a cliff face into the sea on Saturday said yesterday that staying calm helped save his life.

Franklyn Roberts said: “I wasn’t worried and I didn’t panic because I realised I was already in the situation.”

Mr Roberts, who is blind in one eye, said he lost control after something got in his good eye and temporarily blinded him as he negotiated a bend.

He said: “Just as I was making the corner, I went a little too close to the fence.

Mr Roberts said he tried to apply the brakes, but was unable to stop.

He added he wanted to avoid plunging nose-first over the cliff.

Mr Roberts said: “Everything was like in slow motion.

“My fear was landing head first or upside down, so I turned the wheel to the right,” Mr Roberts explained. “Apparently it worked.”

Mr Roberts, from Paget, added: “It didn’t seem too hard at all. Before I know it, I was stationary.”

His small blue Mazda hatchback landed upright, but partly submerged, which forced him to swim to safety.

The crash happened last Saturday afternoon on Southampton’s Middle Road, near Five Star Island as he travelled home after visiting a friend in Somerset.

Mr Roberts said the driver’s door was jammed against a rock, but he escaped through a rear door without problems and headed for the shore.

However, his house keys were attached to the car’s ignition key, which was still in the car and he swam back to get them before he made landfall.

Mr Roberts said he forced himself not to give in to fear.

He added: “It’s like a rip tide. You have to know what you are in. The main thing is that you do not panic.”

Mr Roberts said he was lucky his ten-year-old son, who often accompanied him, was not in the car at the time.

He added: “He would usually be with me, but he wasn’t with me then.”

Mr Roberts said he was “definitely fine” after his ordeal.

He added: “It’s a day in my life. I felt a little cold from the water, but was OK otherwise.

Mr Roberts said: “I had just gotten the car repaired and licensed just the day before.

“I am glad I survived. The car is immaterial. I am here.”

But Mr Roberts, who had been due to return to his friend’s house for a party later that day, said he took a raincheck.

He added: “I stayed home after that.”

Mr Roberts said he lost the sight in his right eye after his bicycle was hit by a motorcycle about 40 years ago, which resulted in the optic nerve being cut.

He explained: “I was in my twenties. A tourist crashed into me.”