A young golfer who watched as his friend was crushed beneath a falling oak tree has admitted he thought his friend must have been killed.
Kumar Starkie-Gupta, of Stanmore, was at the first tee at Pinner Hill Golf Club when the huge 150-year-old tree came crashing down on him in high winds on Sunday morning.
The main trunk of the tree and another huge bough fell inches either side of the 18-year-old, but he was crushed under a mass of leaves and smaller branches, leaving him with spinal injuries.
The Stanmore College student remains at Northwick Park hospital where he is currently unable to walk because of the pain – though he has not been left paralysed.
Kumar was about to start playing a match against friend and fellow Middlesex county player Michael Griffiths, who managed to dive out of the way as the oak came down.
When Michael turned around, his friend was not there.
He said: “I realised he was under the tree and I couldn’t believe it. I just thought he was dead under there.
“I started screaming for him and then I could hear his voice, but even then I was sure he must have been very badly hurt, I kept thinking he must have lost a leg or something. I was in shock.
“When I got to him, a foot to his left was the main trunk and a foot to his right was a huge branch, so he was very nearly completely crushed.”
Kumar said: “I tried to run but it landed on my back. I twisted round as I fell and it was on top of me.
“It was a complete shock – I didn’t know exactly what had hit me. I was in pain but I knew I had to get out in case more fell on top of me – the adrenaline helped me get out.”
Fellow players ran to help Kumar, who had to kick some braches out of the way to fight his way free of the fallen canopy.
He was checked over at the scene before being taken to hospital by paramedics, while firefighters assessed the fallen tree to ensure it posed no further risks.
Speaking to the Harrow Times, Kumar said: “I’m ok now. I just can’t walk because it’s too painful, but I can move my legs. I feel lucky to be alive – it was a massive oak tree and anything could’ve happened.”
Michael was due to play a club match later that afternoon, something Kumar insisted he went ahead with as he was put in the back of the ambulance.
And despite suffering symptoms of shock, the 17-year-old opted to play and ended up winning the game, but not before taking some time to revisit the scene in the intervening hours and come to terms with what had happened.
He said: “It was so surreal. It’s ridiculous when I think about it now – it is unreal. I was just walking around in shock. Kumar is such a relaxed guy – he didn’t even take the gas and air. I was in a worse state than he was – he had to keep telling me to calm down.”
The pair had been selected to represent Middlesex in a regional tournament at a golf club in Surrey later this month, but Kumar’s place could be in jeopardy after the freak injury.
Michael said: “It’s such a good trip so I’m really hoping he recovers in time.”
Kumar added: “I’m optimistic I’ll make a full recovery eventually but I’m just going to take every day as it comes.”
Pinner Hill Golf Club said yesterday it carries out regular tree monitoring at the course and that the oak tree had been assessed as healthy at its last inspection.