Father warns people to 'learn from his mistake' after drink-drive accident left him paralysed and two dead
PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 January 2017
A Somerset father left paralysed from the neck down in an accident which killed two men is making it his life's mission to deter people from drink-driving.
Greg Sumner, aged 26, says he has been given ‘a second chance to make a difference’ and raise awareness about driving under the influence after his life was changed forever in 2012.
At the age of 22, Mr Sumner was surrounded by friends and family and had a bright future ahead of him working at DoubleTree by Hilton Cadbury House, in Congresbury, as a sales manager.
But one night and one mistake put Mr Sumner’s life on hold and left two families without their fathers.
Mr Sumner was a passenger in his friend’s BMW when it collided with another car on the A371 near Axbridge.
Vincent Atkinson, aged 31, was two-and-a-half times over the drink-drive limit as he drove back to Cheddar from Weston after the pair had enjoyed a night out in town.
A race had broken out between Mr Atkinson and a group of young men in another car.
Mr Sumner said: “There was some questionable driving taking place and as we came into Cheddar we were going too fast.”
The pair flew down the busy 40mph road at 70mph, meaning they took a corner too fast and drifted onto the opposite lane.
Father-of-two Richard Parker, also from Cheddar, was on his way to work when their BMW hit his car head on.
Mr Parker and Mr Atkinson – who also had two children – both died instantly and Mr Sumner was rushed to hospital in critical condition.
He had 27 broken bones, including his back, and remained in a coma for five months.
He added: “The doctors did not think I was going to live. During my coma, my heart had stopped completely four times, I had total organ failure and had a number of infections.”
But much to the surprise of the doctors, Mr Sumner pulled through and woke up in February 2013.
He said: “About a week or 10 days after I woke up, my brother James and I were watching TV and the news came on and it said it was February. I was confused because the crash had happened in October so it then dawned on me just how serious it was.”
Mr Sumner spent the following months in a number of rehabilitation centres and care homes across Somerset.
He now requires around-the-clock care as a result of his injuries.
Mr Sumner has had to come to terms with the physical impact of the accident but also said he felt ‘horrendous’ for the four children who lost their fathers.
Mr Sumner, who has a five-year-old son called Alfie, said: “I believe I have got to give a bit back for the astronomical price of two fathers and the two lives which were lost. It is the least I could do.”
Since the accident, Mr Sumner has worked with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service as well as a number of schools and charities to tell his story to help deter others from getting behind the wheel after drinking.
He said: “People need to think and take into account that this could well be the end of their life if they drink and drive.”
Mr Sumner has had a huge impact on some peoples’ lives already and has received a great deal of positive feedback from his talks.
He added: “It is awful but then it has made me a better person and every day I am focusing on being a better father to my son.
“I regret the incident and for putting my family through it but I do not regret the person it has made me.”
He said he will spend the rest of his life doing what he can for his son and provide him the best possible chance in life.
He added: “When Alfie is older, I will be painting the most horrific picture I can so he can learn from my mistakes.”