It’s been his passion for seven years but Lee Sandstrom may be grounding his remote controlled helicopters.
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The Culburra resident was struck by his five kilogram, competition-style stunt helicopter in Berry on December 27.
Mr Sandstrom suffered cuts to his head and face, a broken nose, two broken bones in his lower right arm, ligament damage, a clipped right hip bone and two broken teeth.
He was airlifted to St George Hospital where he spent four days in ICU, before finally being discharged this week.
He’s now back home in Culburra and will be out of action from his hobby and his job as a two-way radio installer for the Rural Fire Service for at least four months as he recovers from his injuries.
While he’s experienced with remote controlled helicopters, Mr Sandstrom said the incident unfolded so quickly there wasn’t much he could do to avoid it.
“I was doing a continuous backflip and I saw it got a bit out of shape so I gave it the accelerator to power out of the maneuver but it hit the ground a bit too soon and sprang back up at me at full speed from around 20 metres away,” he said.
“They can travel up to 150 km/h so I just had no time to react. At the last minute I shielded myself by putting my right hand over my face so that’s where I got the most injuries.
“I just couldn’t believe it.”
Mr Sandstrom’s hobby first took flight in 2010 after he watched a YouTube clip of a remote controlled helicopter flying upside down.
He started with small, cheap helicopters but it wasn’t long before they became bigger and more expensive.
The helicopter he was struck with is worth $2,500.
Mr Sandstrom flies whenever he can, often up to one or two times a day.
While there’s remote controlled helicopter competitions he could enter, Mr Sandstrom said he just does it for fun.
“I’m not competitive. I just love flying and everything about it, from setting up to flying and everything that comes with it,” he said.
He always flies in safe locations, away from other people, but said his accident has “opened his eyes” to the dangers of the sport.
“I knew it could be dangerous but this has certainly made me think twice about continuing,” he said.
“I’ve still got the drive because of where I'm at with my skill level but I’m not sure I’ll continue. I’ve got a four-year-old and a 12-month-old and this has really impacted everyone.”
Mr Sandstrom said his decision to continue with the sport will also rest on how well his hand and arm injuries recover to regain full movement.
Mr Sandstrom was flying alone when the drama unfolded late last month but credits two passer-bys with saving his life.
He flagged down a woman pulling into the carpark with her father and she quickly called an ambulance.
Another man from Culburra also assisted Mr Sandstrom.
“Without them I don’t believe I’d be here today,” Mr Sandstom said.
“I always have a helicopter in the back of the car so I go flying whenever I can and often there’s no-one around at all.
“If that had been the case on this day I would have just laid in front of my car and bled out. I couldn’t do anything.
“I just want to say a really big thank you.”
Mr Sandstrom is hoping to track down the two people who came to his aid to express his gratitude.
If you have any information, contact email@example.com or 4421 9123 or via the South Coast Register Facebook page and we will put you in touch.
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