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Highgate charity campaigner crashes car into council flat after fainting at wheel

PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 May 2014

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, publically thanks caretaker Alan Ashard for pulling her from smoking wreckage after her crash in Colebeck Mews, Islington. Picture: Polly Hancock

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, publically thanks caretaker Alan Ashard for pulling her from smoking wreckage after her crash in Colebeck Mews, Islington. Picture: Polly Hancock

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A journalist and charity campaigner, who was lucky to escape with her life after her car veered off the road and crashed into a block of flats, has publicly thanked the man who pulled her from the smoking wreckage.

Ms Wallace's car after it crashed into the flat in Colebeck Mews, Islington Ms Wallace's car after it crashed into the flat in Colebeck Mews, Islington

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, fainted at the wheel of her Mercedes and swerved off the road – narrowly avoiding a large tree and a concrete bollard – as she was driving home from work last month.

Ms Wallace, of Bisham Gardens, Highgate, only regained consciousness after her car had crashed through a brick wall and into a ground floor council flat in Islington.

Luckily, she escaped from the collision with just a broken arm and lacerations.

“I woke up with the smoke from the airbag, with the blood from my arm and all the bricks,” said Ms Wallace.

“I was quite calm at the time. I just said very politely, can anyone help me get out of here?

“I was quite shocked to suddenly find myself in a brick wall and to be trapped. It was a miracle no one else was hurt.”

Mr Ashard, who lives above the flat Ms Wallace crashed into, said the collision on April 10 sounded like “a motorbike accident, and then a gas explosion”.

“My wife and I thought the building was going to fall down,” the 50-year-old said. “If it wasn’t for the brick wall, it could have! It broke the impact of the car.”

He rushed downstairs to help and saw that Ms Wallace was trapped. With smoke rising from the engine, Mr Ashard feared it could explode.

He could see Ms Wallace’s arm was broken so he gingerly pulled her to safety while his wife Lorraine called the emergency services.

Ms Wallace was taken to The Whittington Hospital, Archway, where the day’s trauma should have been at an end.

But she was put on the ward where her partner, the leading science journalist Tom Margerison, had stayed before his death two months ago.

“I thought, now Tom, I know I said I didn’t want to go on living without you but this is too much,” Ms Wallace said.

She discharged herself and instead visited the hospital’s new same-day treatment service, which opened on March 31, for one week after the collision.

“Alan said some guardian angel must have been guiding me that day,” she said. “Maybe Tom didn’t want me to go either.

“My thanks to Alan are absolutely enormous. In its own way, it was life-saving and I am exceedingly grateful.”

Islington Council has put in steel girders to support the block of flats, in Colebeck Mews, Canonbury, and has boarded up the hole the car made in the wall.

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