A dad who nearly died as a boy when he was run over by a car is now helping to keep children safe as a lollipop man on the same road – 53 YEARS later.
Pete Burling was just 11 when he was involved in a horror accident in 1966 which left him in a coma for several weeks during which he missed his 12th birthday.
Doctors did not expect the youngster to survive but Pete, who also broke both his legs, defied the odds to pull through and went on to make a miraculous recovery.
Now aged 65, Pete works for Sandwell Council as a crossing patrol warden just yards from the very spot where he was almost killed.
He now helps children and parents safely cross the A4123 Wolverhampton Road, in Oldbury, West Mids., every weekday morning, lunchtime and afternoon.
Pete, who worked for the council for many years as a plumber, said he decided to make the switch to lollipop man after retirement to give back something to his community.
He said: “Once I’d retired as a plumber it allowed me the time to give something back to the local community.
“Come rain or shine it’s a joy to see the children and to make sure along with their parents they are safe when crossing such a busy road, as I know only too well how dangerous it can be.
“It’s also good to hear of the casualty reductions Sandwell is achieving across the borough.”
Pete said he wanted to become a lollipop man on the dangerous road to prevent a similar accident to the one that left him in a coma 53 years ago.
The dad-of-two, of Oldbury, revealed he was even declared dead after his heart stopped for several minutes when he was struck by a car in 1966.
Paramedics managed to get his heart beating again and he remained in a coma for six weeks at West Bromwich District Hospital.
Pete, who has been married to primary school worker Janet for 64 years and has two children, aged 37 and 34, and a grandson, aged 13, said: “I was very lucky really.
“One night in March I was walking home, I was soaking wet as it was tipping it down.
“There used to be a bus stop there and a bus had stopped. I ran past the back of the bus but a car was coming in the other direction.
“All I can remember is the bus stopping. Everything after that is a blank.
“I was put in the ambulance dead. What I have been told was that my heart had stopped, but in the ambulance it started beating again.
“I was in a coma for six weeks. I missed my 12th birthday but when I came around I was pretty chirpy in hospital.
“I went back to school in September but I had to repeat the first year of secondary school as I had missed so much.
“I saw the World Cup that summer, but I missed West Bromwich Albion winning the League Cup against West Ham United.
“I left school at 16. I knew I wanted to be a plumber and I began working at Sandwell Council as one in 1976.
“After I retired I thought becoming a lollipop one would give me something to fill my time and give back to the community.
“You get so much joy when you are helping the children. They really show their gratitude. At Christmas they give me cards, chocolates and bottles of wine.
“It’s a terrible road for kids and I’m glad I can help out there to try and make sure nothing similar to my accident happens there again.
“I suppose its quite fitting. It doesn’t bother me to see the place I had my accident, as long as the children are safe that’s the main thing.”
Pete’s son Mathew also works for Sandwell Council as a maintenance engineer in the highways team.
Sandwell Council’s Director of Regeneration and Growth Amy Harhoff said: “Pete’s story is just incredible – to think after being involved in such an awful accident, he’s now keeping our residents and road users safe on the very same road.
“The number of casualties on Sandwell’s roads has halved over the past 15 years. In the same period, we have reduced the number of children injured on our roads by almost two thirds.
“This is thanks to the work we’ve done to improve highway safety and educate pedestrians, particularly children, about staying safe on our roads.
“I want to thank Pete, his son Mat and their colleagues for all they do to keep our roads, drivers and pedestrians safe – they do a great job and we’re very proud of them.”
While Pete recovered in hospital as a child, he was visited by West Bromwich Albion players including Graham Lovett, Ray Fairfax and Richard Sheppard.
The footballers presented him with World Cup memorabilia at his bedside – just months before the England team went on to win the tournament.