Car’s automatic 999 alert ‘saved schoolboy’s life’ after crash

The family of a teenager who survived a car crash after the vehicle called 999 believes the automatic alert system saved his life.

Bradley Duke, 14, was seriously injured when the car he was travelling in to school crashed into a wall at 60mph in icy conditions.

Everyone in the car was knocked unconscious in the incident in the Totley area of Sheffield, but the BMW alerted emergency services using an automatic system to give rescuers the car’s exact location.

Since April this year, the eCall system has been compulsory in all new cars in the EU. It calls the 112 emergency number if an airbag is deployed.

Bradley Duke on his first day back at school
Bradley Duke on his first day back at school after the crash (The Children’s Hospital Charity/PA)

Bradley’s mother Claire said: “Without the BMW, Bradley wouldn’t be here today.

“By the time I came around, the road ambulance was moments away and the helicopter arrived shortly afterwards.

“It had snowed the night before and we’d recently moved to Sheffield. I didn’t know the road well.

“There was opposing traffic on the main road at the bottom of the hill, so I tried to stop the car and pull in. We hit the wall by the roadside at close to 60mph.

“Bradley was sitting behind me. His little brother dropped something and Bradley took his seatbelt off to retrieve it.”

Bradley suffered multiple fractures to his skull, face, spine and wrist, his mother said.

Mrs Duke and Bradley’s younger brother Hayden suffered less serious injuries as they were wearing seatbelts.

An air ambulance was called to the crash on January 13 last year and medics put Bradley into an induced coma before he was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Bradley Duke in hospital after surviving the crash
Bradley Duke in hospital after surviving the crash (The Children’s Hospital Charity/PA)

He was rushed on a stretcher from Weston Park – where the helicopter currently lands – across the busy A57 road into the hospital’s emergency department.

His family has joined a fundraising campaign to build a £6 million helipad on top of the children’s hospital.

Bradley underwent a six-hour operation and spent more than a month in hospital, including nine days in a coma.

Mrs Duke said: “They said to me, ‘best case, he’ll make a full recovery; worst case, he’ll never wake up’.

“I didn’t know whether I was ever going to see him again.”

Bradley’s family, who live in the Middlewood area of Sheffield, said they still do not know the long-term impact and he continues to struggle with his short-term memory, but he has returned to school.

His mother said: “He wanted to be in the Army before the accident but now he wants to do something to save lives.

“We don’t know what that will be yet, he just said he wants to help people, fix things and put a little piece of the world back together.”

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Posted by Sheffield Children's Hospital and Charity on Friday, August 10, 2018

The Children’s Hospital Charity has launched its biggest ever appeal to build a new helipad and expand the emergency department.

“Building the helipad and expanding the emergency department would help ensure the staff have the facilities they need to save more lives like Bradley’s,” Mrs Duke said.

Charity director David Vernon-Edwards said: “A new helipad and expanded emergency department has never been more needed as we strive to build a better future for patients like Bradley at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.”

– More details about the helipad appeal can be found at