Two Buckingham women and a 19-year-old Russian student are lucky to be alive after their motorhome was smashed to pieces in a collision with a lorry on the M40.
Champion dog owners Carrie Russell-Smith and Lisa Croft-Elliott were on their way to a dog show weekend in Welshpool with 11 dogs on board when the motorhome broke down near Banbury in the early hours of Saturday.
The pair, who were accompanied by their 19-year-old friend Anastasia Egorova, pulled their 30ft van on to the hard shoulder between junctions 11 and 12 and called the RAC for assistance.
They had been waiting for three hours when a lorry struck the motorhome, completely destroying it, at 5am.
Ms Russell-Smith and Ms Croft-Elliott, of Buckingham, miraculously escaped from the wrecked vehicle with whiplash but Ms Egorova was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital with three fractured vertebrae, a broken femur, six broken ribs, a collapsed lung, cuts to her head and liver damage.
She has since been moved from intensive care to the trauma ward.
Ms Russell-Smith told the Advertiser: “We’re managing to get lifts every day to see her. We’re not fit to drive yet. We have been overwhelmed by the kindness shown by the dog community. Friends have rallied round bringing us food and driving us. Our house looks like a florist’s shop. It’s overwhelming.”
Although the dogs were travelling in airline-style reinforced cages in the motorhome, two of them were killed by the impact which took off the entire top of the vehicle and allowed some of the frightened animals to take off down the motorway.Two more subsequently had to be put down.
Social media came into its own when an appeal went out on the DogLost website for people to help find award-winning Darren the corgi, who had fled the scene.
Cardigan corgi Darren, who won Best Of Breed at Crufts and at the world show this year, was found safe and has now been X-rayed and referred to a chiropractor for some realignment.
Amazingly, three 12-week-old English toy terrier puppies survived unhurt in the wreckage.
Ms Russell-Smith said: “Obviously we’re very, very, very sad that four of our dogs lost their lives and once we’ve stopped having to deal with everything it’s going to hit home. According to the police, we don’t have a guardian angel, we have a whole host. Our vehicle was pushed many feet up the bank. The police who arrived at the scene did not expect to find anyone alive.”