Brave Josh fights back from horrific accident to win snorkelling honour

A BRAVE schoolboy has battled his way back from the horrific injuries he sustained in a road accident to win the top honour at his snorkelling club.

Just 18 months ago, nine-year-old Josh Butler was left fighting for his life after being hit by a car outside his school.

His head injuries were so severe that he was flown to hospital by The Yorkshire Air Ambulance where he had a life saving operation and a metal plate was fitted to his skull.

But following a miraculous recovery, Josh, who lives with his family in Liversedge, joined his local Batley Snorkelling Club, a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club, (BSAC) and has just picked up the coveted title of its Snorkeller of the Year.

And no-one is more proud of his achievements than his mum Julie Butler, who went through the dreadful ordeal of witnessing the accident which threatened Josh’s life.

Julie recalled: “It happened in front of me. We were waiting to cross the road and there were lots of parked cars on the road. Josh looked to the right but didn’t look left and just walked out into the road. There was nothing I could do. The car coming up the road just hit him and he was thrown at least 10 feet forward.”

“I just could not believe what had just happened. I was in shock and ran straight over to Josh who was just lying there.

“There were plenty of people who saw what happened and several of them called the emergency services.

“Within minutes the police, two ambulances and an emergency doctor were there. They soon realised how bad it was and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance was requested. They were there in minutes and Josh was flown to The Leeds General Infirmary.

“The injuries to his head were so severe that he was put in to an induced coma, to help prevent further swelling on the brain.

“He had to have an operation in which they took away part of his skull to release the pressure on his brain and we were told if he didn’t have the operation he would die.

“The skull which had to be removed was later replaced with a titanium plate.

“We were told that he may not come through the operation, that he may still die, be paralysed or brain damaged or that he may be fine.

“Nobody knew what the outcome would be. It was a horrendous thing to be told, every parent’s worst nightmare.

“He was in intensive care for four days before he woke. He was very weak but he amazed the doctors at his recovery and he had to stay in hospital for a further nine days.”

The scars left by his traumatic experience are still quite clearly visible when Josh’s hair gets wet.

His evacuation to hospital and treatment were the subject of an episode of the BBC programme Helicopter Heroes screened last October.

Josh, his family and their friends now fundraise on behalf of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and their contribution has reached several thousand pounds.

Only a matter of months after the accident, Josh had recovered sufficiently to be able to re-join his local Cub troop.

Like many other Cub Scouts in the area, Josh – with his 11-year-old brother Robert and their friend Connor Hinde-Marsden, also aged 11, acting as his “buddies” – attended a short course at Batley Snorkelling Club to help towards gaining his Cub Scout Watersports Proficiency badge.

They enjoyed it so much, that they have since became regular members of the club.

Batley Snorkelling Club has been running at Batley Sports Centre since 1975 and currently has around 40 members.

The club’s instructors encourage and train members of all ages through the BSAC training scheme with the emphasis on fun and safe snorkelling.

BSAC is the UK national governing body for the sport and represents around 35,000 active scuba divers and snorkellers.

Darren Sefton, a BSAC-qualified snorkelling instructor for the past seven years who has taught Josh since he started at the Batley club, said of him: “He has managed to overcome all the difficulties he faced and tries very hard in everything he does.

“The Snorkeller of the Year prize goes to the person who has put in the most effort and shown the most improvement during the year – and Josh has certainly done that.

“In the time he has been with the club he has come on in leaps and bounds and as his instructor I am really very impressed with him.

“He never complains and throws himself into every activity with enthusiasm with no special treatment asked for, or received.”

At the club’s annual presentation night, Josh was voted Snorkeller of the Year and presented with a certificate and a laser-etched glass trophy.

This recognises the courage, determination and perseverance he has shown since his accident.

BSAC Chief Executive, Mary Tetley, said Josh’s achievements with the Batley club were remarkable.

Mary said: “After what Josh and his family have been through, this must be a very happy and memorable award and I wish Josh many congratulations.

“Snorkelling is a terrific activity for children, improving their swimming skills, confidence and safety in the water and is also great fun to do. It is how a lot of our youngsters start their diving career because they can move on to learn how to  scuba dive, often with the same club, once they are 12.”

Mum Julie added: “It’s amazing to see the recovery Josh has made after such a terrible accident.

“He is now completely fine and the doctors have said that the only thing he can’t do is play rugby, which he used to enjoy.

“But he still does his karate and also has the Cubs and now his snorkelling, which is his big thing at the moment.

“He goes to club meetings every Thursday evening with Robert and Connor who have both been with him all along.

“Actually, Josh couldn’t even swim until he joined the club but now he loves doing that and the other things the instructors teach them like holding his breath under water.

“I am so proud of what he has been able to do in the past 18 months and the award he has just won is very much deserved.”

Josh is modest about his achievements and said: “It was great to get over my accident and now I love swimming and snorkelling with my friends at the club. The thing I like best is holding my breath under the water.”

He also gave an insight into what the future might hold for him, adding: “When I grow up and leave school I’d like to be a vet because I love animals.”

More details on Batley Snorkelling Club can be found at

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