Taxi driver Mark Beckford tells of ordeal after being minutes from death as car plunges into ditch in Hamstreet
A taxi driver has spoken about how he was minutes from death after being trapped in his car in a water-filled ditch for 14 hours.
Ashford cabbie Mark Beckford is recovering at home after spending 10 days in hospital following the crash, in which his car left the A2070 near Hamstreet and landed upside down - submerged in 4ft of cold water.
The 44-year-old, of Marlie Holiday Park, New Romney, says he is lucky to be alive after the horrific accident.
Taxi driver Mark Beckford survived being trapped in a ditch
He said: “I feel very, very lucky to be here. I could have died and I am so thankful to everyone who assisted in my rescue.”
Mr Beckford’s ordeal took place at 2am on Tuesday, August 13. He had left Ashford, where he has worked as an independent taxi driver for the last 16 years, to drive home.
He was on the A2070 when he saw a fox sitting in the middle of the road.
He said: “I noticed two cars coming towards me. I didn’t think anything of it but then I saw this fox in the middle of the road, just staring at me. It startled me, so I jolted. The next thing I know the car was spinning.
“I don’t know what happened next – I couldn’t tell you if my car went into the ditch front first or backwards.
"It was all so quick. I don’t remember hitting the water. I do know that the other cars didn’t stop, though.”
Scene of the rescue. Picture: Kent Fire and Rescue
Mr Beckford, who moved to New Romney from Ashford seven years ago, found himself upside down in the car, completely submerged in water and surrounded by darkness.
He said: “I swallowed a lot of water and it was pitch black. I got into the back seat of the car and found a small air pocket.
"The only thing that was above the water was my head. I couldn’t see anything and so had to feel my way around the car. I just thought to myself, I need to get out.”
Mr Beckford found that the back side windows and the boot window had smashed.
Diving under the water he attempted to get through the windows but couldn’t fit.
“I had no idea how long I was in the car, I couldn’t see any daylight as the car was under water,” he said.
The upturned car. Picture: Kent Fire and Rescue
“All I had to keep me alive was a small air pocket. I was really scared. I was struggling to breathe and I was panicking. All I could do was wait.
“I could hear cars driving past and I shouted. I grabbed something from inside the car and banged the top of the car. Obviously, no one could hear me.
“I pushed the front seats down to give me a bit more room. I thought about a lot while I was in there, you think about life in general and what I would do if I ever got out of there.”
During the 14 hours that Mark was missing, his panic-stricken wife Lesley, 60, and step-daughters Melanie Wellman and Nichola O’Shea, anxiously rang around friends and contacts, trying to trace him. Eventually, Mark was reported missing to the police at 12.30pm by his worried wife.
"All I had to keep me alive was a small air pocket. I was really scared. I was struggling to breathe and I was panicking. All I could do was wait..." - Mark Beckford
Luckily for Mark, lorry driver Mike Scott drove along the road at about 3.20pm on Tuesday afternoon, spotted the back wheels of the car and called the police.
Mr Scott, from Swanley, said: “I just saw something in the ditch out of the corner of my eye. It could have been anything. I pulled over and called the police. They asked my to stay on the line and go and have a closer look.
“I watched the crews go down into the water. At first I didn’t know anyone was in there. But once we knew I wanted to stay to see if they were okay.”
Mr Beckford said: “I wasn’t really with it when I was pulled out of the car. I think before they pulled the car out of the water, a fireman had reached in to see if anyone was inside, and obviously he felt me.
“I was under by then though, my body had shut down. They said another 10 minutes and I would have died.
“Mike is a godsend. If he hadn’t called the police when he did, I would have died. He saved my life.”
Mr Beckford and Mr Scott have been in contact with each other since the crash, and are hoping to meet soon.
Mr Beckford suffered hypothermia and internal bruising but escaped with no broken bones.
He said: “I want to say a massive thank you to the medical team at the William Harvey Hospital and also, the fire crews and the police at the scene.”
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