A mother has spoken of her family’s hurt following the death of a son whose life was ruined when he was hit by a drink driver.
James Hitchon was left with severe disabilities and brain injuries in the collision on Peel Street 19 years ago. He spent three months in a coma and later had to be fed through a tube.
James, a well-known Accrington postman before the incident, died from pneumonia on September 23 this year aged 39.
The driver of the car that hit him was jailed for six months in 1991 by Hyndburn magistrates who heard that it was his fourth drink driving offence in seven years.
James’s heartbroken mum Bernadette Hitchon, of Lodge Street, Accrington, spoke to the Observer of the agony she and her family had suffered since the incident. The 57-year-old grandmother-of-two and mum-of-three, said: "We’ve had 19 years of trauma. It has crucified me. The last 19 years have been pure hell.
"Because of what happened James never got married, he never had children and we missed all that and he did. I can’t really say anything else and have no words for how I feel."
Following the incident in 1991, James spent three months in a deep coma as his mum, dad Robin, brother John and sister Sarah prayed for his recovery.
The keen snooker, music and Manchester City football fan wasn’t expected to pull through because of the injury sustained to the base of his skull - but did.
The former St Christopher’s High School pupil then spent time between Royal Preston Hospital, Blackburn Royal and then Accrington Victoria before being transferred to Highbank private head injuries unit in Bury in 1992.
It was there where Bernadette taught James to eat, drink, swallow and talk all over again.
"He stayed at Highbank for five and a half years and he was in a semi-coma," said Bernadette, who left her clerical job at the time to visit James almost every day.
"The brain damage left him very disabled and all his limbs were bent. But he was still in a wheelchair and couldn’t do anything for himself apart from just about hold a glass or a cup. But really, he couldn’t do anything – even get out of bed," she added.
In 1995 James was awarded more than £800,000 in damages in the High Court in Manchester.
James was later moved to the Brain Injury Trust in Liverpool where he stayed for 11 years and was able to frequently visit home where his family and friends would hold parties for him at The Boars Head Pub on Burnley Road, Accrington.
But unfortunately in 2006 James’s condition went rapidly downhill after it was decided he needed an operation to be fed by a tube through his stomach.
During that time he was moved to Liverpool Royal Hospital in 2008 and then onto to the Sue Ryder home in Bamber Bridge.
Bernadette said: "He always had a problem swallowing. He was bed-ridden, fed by a tube and just kept alive in that way.
"Even his own saliva was causing him to choke. In the last four years he has spent in hospitals he has had pneumonia at least 12 times.
"A month ago they couldn't do anything for him as he was just being kept alive by a tube and he sadly died from pneumonia."
Paying tribute to her beloved son Bernadette said: "He was very well liked and very sociable. He liked cycling and had a particular interest in snooker and was just a real happy go-lucky young man who loved his job as a postman. We were just a happy family before the incident. But since you are forever upset. It has been horrendous," she added.