A hell ride for a heavenly cause

Launching the 2008 Hell on Wheels Cycle Tour in Lismore on Tuesday was Norval Watson (front) with (rear l-r) Life Saver Rescue Helicopter line pilot Martin Hanna, Bottlemart area manager David Kook, Bottlemart Bart, Scott Gibson from Sunrise Cycles, Life Saver Rescue Helicopter chief crewman Roger Fry, Hell on Wheels rider Allan Job from Ballina, Rescue Helicopter general manager Kris Beavis, Michelle Walker from Country Energy and Sara Hubble from The Northern Star.

If it wasnt for the Life Saver Rescue Helicopter, cycle enthusiast Norval Watson wouldnt be alive today.

In September 2006 Norval had a cycling accident in the Goonengerry forest and damaged his spinal cord, leaving him unable to move. He was airlifted to a Brisbane hospital, where he stayed for three months. He has slowly regained some movement in his arms and legs.

Norval has joined the Hell on Wheels Cycle Tour a 533km journey starting and finishing in Coffs Harbour to educate people about the life-saving role the helicopter plays and why its so important to keep it in the air.

In a fitting twist, the helicopter crewman who winched Norval to safety also has a part-time job as Bottlemart Bart, the mascot for Bottlemart, which is the cycle tours major sponsor.

I hope to be able to ride one day, but that may be a year or two away, so for now Im helping in the only way I can, Norval said. I hate to think what would of happened to me without the helicopter service. I might be pushing up daisies.

The 11th annual Bottlemart Hell on Wheels Cycle Tour is a week-long mountain bike adventure, held in October, where riders battle dirt roads, bush tracks and challenging hills, fundraising along the way. The event has raised $450,000 for the helicopter service in the past 10 years.

There are only 50 spots available on the ride. To enter, donate money or provide sponsorship, visit www.helirescue.com.au/events or phone 6627 4444.


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