A trainee army officer who broke his neck in a 500ft plunge down a mountain ravine survived five hours before being rescued – because he landed in an ice-cold stream.
Super-fit Simon Miller, 24, was thought to have died in the horrific fall down the slopes of 2,848ft (868m) Blencathra mountain in the Lake District.
Mountain rescue volunteers battled through remote terrain expecting to retrieve a body and were stunned to come across Simon lying bloodied but conscious in shallow waters.
The freezing waters of the stream kept him alive by stabilising his blood pressure and cooling his body temperature to help combat the effects of the impact and shock.
Doctors said if Simon had landed either side of the metre-wide, six-inch deep stream he probably would have died.
He still suffered a fractured neck, shattered right leg, broken wrist, hand and shoulder and a six-inch gash across his head, and was told he may never walk again.
But less than two years after the devastating fall Simon, who spent a week in an induced coma and needed an eight-hour operation to save his leg, is set to start racing again.
He plans to take part in a series of sporting challenges to raise money for Keswick Mountain Rescue and say thank you for their life-saving efforts.
Simon, from Huntingdon, Cambs., said: ”My friends thought the rescue team would come back with a body and in hospital my parents were told that I may be quadriplegic.
”Not only did I survive the fall but now I can walk, run, cycle and swim again. I didn’t realise but I was so lucky to land in the stream.
”Doctors said otherwise I probably would have been dead by the time they found me.
”I met the mountain rescue guys who got me off the mountain and I can’t thank them enough.
”After seven operations and months of full-time rehabilitation, I am finally able to repay some of the debt I owe to the team. To meet them was very humbling.
”I get a lot of banter from my mates. Not surprisingly people don’t want to go up mountains with me.
”I get called Harry Potter a lot now because of six-inch scar on my forehead. It’s like his bolt of lightening but not as cool.”
Engineering graduate Simon was racing with army pals in the 74-mile-long 24-hour 42 Peak Challenge in August 2008 when he slipped on a wet rock.
He smashed into rocks and trees as he hurtled down the slopes of the steep ravine before plunging into the shallow stream.
Mountain rescue volunteers slogged through the mountains for five hours to reach Simon and stabilise him before he was airlifted to Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle.
Although Simon was conscious throughout he suffered ”traumatic amnesia” and cannot remember anything from five minutes before the fall to waking up in the hospital bed.
After the major leg surgery he spent a fortnight in hospital in Carlisle, and a further three weeks at an army rehabilitation unit in Surrey.
Four months later he was walking unaided again and had a tearful reunion with the mountain rescue team who saved his life last month.
Due to his massive injuries Simon, who was training to be an army officer at Sandhurst, has had to give up on his dream career but still trains hard regularly.
His summer of gruelling endurance challenges will include a one-mile open-water race in the Thames, the 25km Human Race Spirit triathlon in Windsor, and the Bristol half-marathon.
He has been training six days a week by cycling, swimming and the occasionally run but still has limited movement in one leg, his wrist, shoulder and neck.
Simon hopes to raise as much as possible for the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team, who receive no government funding but volunteer their services 365 days a year.