Disabled Euxton war hero battling to stop parking on drop kerbs blocking wheelchair users

Life has been tough for ex-soldier Anthony Cooper since he lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan.

By Brian Ellis
Monday, 9th May 2022, 4:55 am

But the 34-year-old war hero says thoughtless drivers are making it even more difficult by parking across drop kerbs that are essential for his wheelchair.

"I can't believe people can be so uncaring," said Anthony who lives in Euxton near Chorley.

"It's not just us guys who have come back disabled from war, it's all wheelchair users and people pushing buggies.

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Anthony says drivers parking on drop kerbs are blocking wheelchair users.

"These drivers need to wake up. One day they might end up in a wheelchair and then they might understand how infuriating this is."

Anthony suffered devastating injuries when he was blown up on patrol in Helmand Province in 2010.

It has taken him years to put his life back together and, while he still remains unemployed, he dreams of becoming a motivational speaker, helping others to find the strength to fight back from adversity.

But just getting around in his wheelchair is becoming a major issue thanks to the selfish actions of motorists who block his route to the shops or when he takes his dog Max for a walk.

Taking dog Max for a walk is tough going when vehicles are parked illegally.

"I like to go out, but I can't do normal kerbs," he said. "I've tried and fallen and it's painful, believe me.

"Sometimes, when people park on the pavement, I can't get through, so I have to go into the road to get round them. That's putting my life at risk and also that of my dog.

"If drivers would just think for a minute about where they're leaving their vehicles, they might see it is going to cause problems for wheelchair users and mums or dads with prams.

"This isn't a new issue, it's been going on for years. But lately it just seems to be getting worse."

Anthony served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Anthony, who served with the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, also saw service in Iraq before fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

He was on foot patrol in the Nad-e Ali danger zone of Helmand when he stepped on a 45-kilo Taliban IED which was big enough to blow up a truck.

He lost both legs above the knee, was blinded in one eye, lost three fingers on one hand and all the fingertips on the other. He also suffered an horrific brain blast injury which meant he was in a coma for five weeks.

Anthony spent five weeks in an induced coma after the explosion.

His family were told he might not survive. But after four years of rehabilitation at Headley Court Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey where he had to learn to talk again, he has battled back and has even competed at the Invictus Games in wheelchair racing and archery.

"The eye injury means that while I can see where I am going, I can't see well enough to drive," he explained. "As a result my wheelchair is so important to me getting out and about.

"These drivers are totally thoughtless. And someone needs to speak out about this issue, it is affecting a lot of people."

Anthony, who found religion during his years of rehab, has a meeting with the Mayor of Chorley on May 17 at which he plans to raise the issue locally.

Last year, before the withdrawal of British and US troops from Afghanistan, he was considering returning to the place where he almost lost his life to preach the Gospel.

He says he now views his brush with death as “part of God’s plan” and has cemented his commitment to Christianity with a baptism at Chorley Evangelical Free Church.

Anthony bravely battled back to compete in the Invictus Games.

"I’m not going to lie, when I was first injured, I thought there was no such thing as God and I didn’t believe anymore," he said.

"But then I went to Headley Court and I began speaking to the Pastor there who restored my faith.”

After being invalided out of the armed forces he says he feels let down by the Government because of the way war veterans are treated after giving so much.

"The Government don't seem to give two stuffs, the MOD don't care," he claimed. "When I look at life I think 'what did I come back for - to be looked down upon after serving your country, for protecting you guys?'

"I lost a lot of mates out in Afghan and I almost lost my own life too. Yet no-one seems to care.

"This might seem a small issue to some people, but it's a big deal to folks like me who need drop kerbs to be left clear so we can get about. It's not a lot to ask, is it?

"Delivery drivers seem particularly bad, as do shop owners who think they can park outside their premises even if that means blocking a drop kerb."

Drivers can face a penalty charge notice (PCN) of £70 if they are caught parking across a drop kerb.

Peter Bell, regulation and enforcement manager for Lancashire County Council, said: "Dropped kerbs are provided to help wheelchair users and those with powered mobility vehicles or prams get around easily and safely.

"Parking on dropped kerbs is very inconsiderate to those who rely on them and can make it difficult for people to cross the road, forcing them to cross in a less safe location, or take a long detour.

"We do enforce dropped kerbs and will issue a £70 penalty charge notice to any vehicle we find parked on one."

Anthony is urging drivers to think before parking across drop kerbs.