A Derry man is said to have been amazed at the amount of support pouring in from his family and friends back at home, following an horrific surfing accident in Australia.
Billy McMenamin, who moved to Australia several years ago, sustained a broken neck after an early morning surfing trip had gone horribly wrong.
The 39-years-old experienced surfer, who is living on the Gold Coast in Queensland, sustained his injuries after hitting a hidden sand bank head-on in what was a freak accident last week.
The accident occurred at a time when Billy and his girlfriend, Hayley Fisher, were preparing to welcome their first child, which is due next month.
Local friends and family, have rallied around and a Youcaring.com crowdfunding page set up after the accident has already raised over £2,500 for the couple.
Billy’s sister, Grainne McMenamin, said that Billy has been overwhelmed by the generosity and also the flood of messages from friends and family back home in Derry.
“Whatever comes in will definitely help them,” Grainne said. “Billy is so grateful, not just for the financial assistance but for all the amazing messages he has received. That is really keeping him going.”
Describing the accident, Grainne said: “A sandbank had built up under the wave and this is a beach he surfs all the time, so he knows it well.
“He crashed into the sandbank head first.
“He would have perceived it to be a lot deeper but it was much, much more shallow than it should have been. He is very lucky to be alive. In fact, it’s incredible he came out of it alive.”
Grainne said that her brother, when in Ireland, would often go off on his own on surfing expeditions and the fact that the accident happened in Australia was a critical factor.
“He would have been back in Ireland every winter for the surf and brought Hayley along with him. That’s what saved his life here.
“There were people there on the beach and they recognised what had happened and laid him out flat before getting an ambulance.”
Grainne said their parents, Sean and Geraldine McMenamin, and the wider family cirlce, were shocked and worried after learning of the accident and they have been in constant contact with Billy and Hayley.
“There’s the reality that it happened and then the timing of it. It is just such a pity, especially when they are expecting a baby.”
Miraculously Billy’s scans show that he did not sustain neurological damage in the surfing accident. He has since been fitted with a special brace to allow him some limited mobility but he can only wear this for very short periods and must lie down the rest of the time.
“It’s going to be for the long haul, as it will be three months minimum before he can do anything at all, rehabilitation or physio.”
She said the road ahead will be particularly difficult for the couple with the new baby on the way, Billy’s inability to work during his recovery and given his normally very active life-style.
“As a couple they are so active and have done so much travelling. Then they made the decision to settle down and start a family,” continued Grainne.
“They live on the Gold Coast which is known as ‘Surfer’s Paradise’ and surfing is the love of his life. It is his passion.
“At home Billy was known as ‘Hurricane’ and in Australia he has been nicknamed ‘The Cyclone.’ He just doesn’t sit still.
“He is always making stuff with his hands and he is so good, he’s such a kind person and very good natured and I’m not surprised he has got such a good, positive response after what happened.”
Billy works as a sign writer in Australia, a trade he learned in Derry under the professional tutelage local businessman, Alan McGarrigle of McGarrigle Signs, in the city centre. It was while working with Alan that he met Hayley, who is Alan’s niece.
Commenting on the response from people back home, she said: “The encouragement Billy has received since his accident has been so positive and I am 100 per cent sure it will assist his recovery knowing that so many people out there care about him.
“He has been so amazed at the response. You don’t even realise half the people out there who are concerned about you. It’s just unreal how kind people have been.”
To donate, go to the ‘Help Billy and Hayley!’ crowd funding page at www.yourcaring.com