WhatsNew2Day
Latest News And Breaking Headlines

RAF instructor paralyzed after breaking neck and falling 900ft in botched parachute jump

An RAF instructor who was left paralyzed after breaking his neck during a failed parachute jump is competing in a veterans’ sports competition this month, six years after the accident.

Corporal Rob Budgen was on an exercise in California in January 2016 when he collided with his colleague Brook Stebbins after they jumped out of the aircraft at 12,000 feet.

Their parachutes wrapped around each other, and both men fell 900 feet at more than 50 mph, before landing in the sand.

During the near free fall, Mr. Stebbins’ knee struck Mr. Budgen’s knee, breaking his neck and rendering him unconscious.

“The last thing I remember is pulling my parachute cord and looking up into the canopy,” he said. ‘Next thing I know, I’m waking up in a hospital in Phoenix.’

Corporal Rob Budgen broke his neck during a 12,000-foot parachute jump in California

Corporal Rob Budgen broke his neck during a 12,000-foot parachute jump in California

The skydiving instructor, who had been with the RAF for almost eight years when the accident occurred, said he does not like to dwell on the collision.

The accident left him with a severely damaged spinal cord and several broken vertebrae, leaving him quadriplegic and requiring the use of a wheelchair at the age of 31.

“I really wanted to go home,” said Budgen, now 37, who now lives in Sigingstone, near Cowbridge.

‘At the time, I had just bought a new flat in Rhiwbina, and was thinking of all the things I could solve there with my week off from work. But when I woke up in the hospital, it was the beginning of four years of rehabilitation.’

Originally from Cornwall, Mr Budgen moved to Cardiff at the age of 18 to study at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Five years later, in 2008, he joined the RAF as a physical training instructor, coming from a military family with his grandparents, father and brother all in the armed forces.

In 2008 he joined the RAF as a fitness instructor specializing in parachute jumping.  In the photo, Budgen before the accident.

In 2008 he joined the RAF as a fitness instructor specializing in parachute jumping. In the photo, Budgen before the accident.

After specializing in skydiving, Mr. Budgen dreamed of working with the special forces.

After the accident, he hoped to return to his previous fitness levels that had helped him finish sixth in the Cardiff Half Marathon a few years earlier.

“To begin with, I was like many people who experience catastrophic injuries and illnesses,” he said. “I thought I was going to walk again and change the world and I was in a hurry to do everything.

“But it became a gradual process, a bit like a ladder really: I just had to take everything one step at a time.

“I have some use of my arms, for which I am very grateful, but it took me 11 months to be strong enough to feed myself.”

Then it took me another three or four months to brush my teeth and I won’t go into the details, but it took me another six months to be able to press the button on my catheter to allow me to go to the bathroom again. .’

After the accident, Mr. Budgen hoped to return to his previous physical state.  He was a runner and finished sixth in the Cardiff Half Marathon a few years earlier.  Pictured from the Nos Galan road race at Mountain Ash before the accident

After the accident, Mr. Budgen hoped to return to his previous physical state. He was a runner and finished sixth in the Cardiff Half Marathon a few years earlier. Pictured from the Nos Galan road race at Mountain Ash before the accident

‘I can be very impatient, but I’ve taken it one step at a time, little by little and gone from there.

“I’m very lucky to have pushed myself through a couple of half marathons and stuff, but it’s a constantly evolving process. Only in the last six months have I been able to make myself a cup of tea.

His rehab has also created time to reflect on the accident and how lucky he is to be alive.

“I am very lucky,” he said. “Not just to survive the drop, but also because I’m a British military man and it’s kind of ingrained in us to just do our best in these kinds of situations.

‘I’m not going to lie, there are days when it really affects me. I have to live with care, and there are definitely days when I don’t want the caregiver to come and get me out of bed and help me shower or go to the bathroom.

Budgen said it may be

Budgen said he may be “very impatient” for his recovery, but reflected on how lucky he is to be alive.

‘But on those days when I visit places like Headley Court [military rehabilitation centre] and I see the guys there who have had really serious brain injuries, it puts everything into perspective.

I realize how lucky I am, even though I can’t walk and have a lot of problems, I’m still here. It is that thought that gets me through the toughest days.

Mr Budgen has received support from the RAF Benevolent Fund, for which he is now an ambassador.

The fund provides a variety of support for veterans and serving personnel, including financial assistance and care breaks.

It stepped in to pay around £650,000 for a house adapted to Mr Budgen’s needs, while also paying the rent for specialist medical equipment.

“I am incredibly proud to be an ambassador for something that has helped both myself and others,” he said.

“They paid for welfare breaks so I could get away from the hospital for a weekend and obviously they adapted my house and helped me live comfortably.

“Excitingly, in August I am also going to Portugal for my first summer break since my accident, for which I cannot thank you enough.”

At the end of the month, Mr. Budgen will compete in the 2022 Veterans Games, a six-day sports competition to be held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

At the end of the month, Mr. Budgen will compete in the 2022 Veterans Games, a six-day sports competition to be held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Before leaving, Mr. Budgen will make a special trip to Israel.

He has been selected by the RAF Charitable Fund to take part in the 2022 Veterans Games, a six-day sporting competition to be held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem at the end of May.

Held for the first time in 2019, 65 wounded, ill and injured British Armed Forces veterans will travel with their families to compete against their Israeli counterparts fighting identical challenges.

Veterans will go head-to-head in a variety of sports while learning how their respective countries provide care for the wounded, sick and injured in their country’s service.

Budgen said he is excited and nervous about the trip.

“This will be my first time on a commercial flight as a quadriplegic,” he said. ‘So I have no idea how that’s going to work. You hear a lot of horror stories about wheelchair users staying on flights and the like.

‘But I’m also very excited. I really want to go to a country I’ve never been to before and do a little more sport. There is also a barbecue on the beach in Tel Aviv that should be amazing.

“On top of that there will be a conference on advances in rehabilitation technology which I’m sure will be very interesting and we’ll also pay our respects by visiting some of the British war graves out there.”

“It’s going to be a very important week and something I’m really looking forward to being a part of.”

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More