Published: 14:00, 26 April 2017
| Updated: 14:09, 26 April 2017
A Sittingbourne holidaymaker whose legs were shattered when a palm tree fell on her in Sri Lanka is suing travel agent TUI Group.
Claire Saywell was at the four-star Club Hotel Dolphin resort in February with her husband Darren when the 50ft tree came down on top of her, while she was sunbathing.
The 42-year-old said: “I was dozing in the sun with my eyes closed and the next thing I knew I had this excruciating pain in my legs.
“I remember seeing the tree and screaming ‘Get it off me’ as the pain was nothing like I’ve ever experienced.
“My legs were bent down into a ‘V’ shape where the sun lounger had broken and, when the men managed to get the tree off, my legs looked deformed with my feet going in different directions.
“I will never get that vision out of my head. I thought my legs were gone.”
Three men struggled to lift the tree off her legs and insurance broker Claire feared the worst.
“Everyone was running around panicking and I was trying to avoid looking at my legs as they were such a mess,” she said.
“Where I was in such a state of shock that the pain didn’t really kick in properly until they tried to transport me to the ambulance. Then a feeling of agony like I have never experienced shot through my body.”
She was transferred to Colombo where she needed titanium pins put in her legs and spent 12 days there before being flown home.
“I can’t actually believe what has happened. It wasn’t like I was doing anything dangerous like riding on a motorbike, I was sun bathing, but I ended up with two broken legs. I get flash backs, have nightmares and I can’t sleep."
The whole experience has been awful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
She is now taking legal action.
“We were supposed to be on a luxury holiday and I have been left with this nightmare. I’ve been told it will take me up to six months to recover," she added.
"Personally I would take down all of the palm trees around where people sun bathe to prevent this happening again. We’ve been offered a free holiday but I don’t want to go back. I’m scared to go abroad at all.”
Larry Shaw, a travel specialist at Slater and Gordon lawyers, said: “When people go on holiday to a luxury resort the last thing they expect is for a palm tree to fall on them as they sunbathe.
"Claire has suffered horrific injuries that will take months to heal while the mental scars could take even longer.
“It is crucial that holiday resorts and tour operators ensure trees are properly inspected and maintained to avoid incidents like this happening again.”
A TUI spokesman said: "We’re sorry to hear of Mrs Saywell’s experience.
"As this is now subject to legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.
"We’d like to reassure customers that we regularly audit all of the hotels we feature in respect of health and safety and that incidents such as this are rare."
More by this authorPoppy Jeffery
This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)