Man, 86, left lying in gutter 'thought he was dying'

Denis Cullinan where he fell near his home in Waterloo
-Credit: (Image: Liverpool Echo)


"I have lost my quality of life" says 86-year-old Denis Cullinan as he tries to describe a fall which has let him in agonising pain.

Denis has lived in Waterloo for more than 60 years and set up home on Deacon Close 40 years ago. Denis said he loves his close-knit community and enjoys living near the coast and getting plenty of fresh air. However, his perception of the area will always be tainted by what happened to him last summer.

Denis finds it difficult to recall the events of August 12, 2023 without becoming very emotional. He says the trauma of his experience - and the aftermath - has left him with physical and psychological scars. However, through teary eyes and with a faltering voice, Denis describes the build-up to a fall which left him utterly devastated.

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Three months previously, Denis had a knee operation which left him housebound. This was a difficult time for Denis, who had always been fit and agile, having previously played football for the British Army. Nonetheless, his mobility was getting better every day and he was starting to go out more. Regardless of the improvement in his knee, Denis said he still had to be cautious going outside due to the fact he suffers from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - a disease that affects a person's central vision.

On the afternoon of August 12, Denis was making his way toward South Road to run some errands and do a little shopping. "It was a very normal day", he said. At the corner of Deacon Close are two concrete bollards. But in August 2023 there was just one, and a metal protrusion sticking up from the pavement where the second bollard used to stand. Denis said he heard the bollard had been taken down in early 2023, but he didn't know due to his recovery from the knee operation.

Denis Cullinan at home in Waterloo
Denis Cullinan at home in Waterloo -Credit:Liverpool Echo

As Denis began to cross the road, his foot hit the metal pipe and he fell onto the other bollard, severely injuring his arm and shoulder. Denis recalls hitting the ground and rolling into the gutter unable to move. He said: "It was absolute agony, I thought I was dying, quite honestly."

His cries were heard by a neighbour who came rushing over and called for an ambulance on his mobile phone. When the phone was passed to Denis - still lying in the gutter - he was told he would have to wait five-and-a-half hours before an ambulance could attend.

After explaining how old and how hurt he was, Denis said: "They told me it would still be five-and-a-half hours and told me I could always get a taxi, but if I did order a taxi, to call them straight back so they could cancel the ambulance." At this point, Denis makes a laughing sound, but his face betrays his true feelings and a tear rolls down his face. "I just could not believe it, but that's not the end of it" he said.

Denis' neighbour called a taxi and went inside to get some blankets. Soon afterwards, the taxi turned onto the road, stopped close by and then drove off, assuming Denis was drunk. After crawling to the nearest house, Denis pleaded with his neighbour to take him to hospital. He said: "He was a lovely man and he took me straight away and stayed with me."

Sadly, the ordeal was only just beginning for Denis. He was treated for a badly broken arm and a bruised shoulder and advised the hospital would have to discharge him because they didn't want him being a 'bed-blocker'. The nurse asked whether he had any next of kin to contact and Denis said he only had a 87-year-old sister who also had AMD and only had 3% vision. This was deemed sufficient and Denis was sent home later the same day.

On Monday August 14, Denis' sister was booked to go on a two-week cruise so she visited him on Sunday with bags full of pre-cooked food. For the next ten days, Denis could not open anything because he only had the use of one hand. He said: "Somehow I got through it and survived, although I can't say how."

After assessing Denis' hand, his GP referred him to The Walton Centre where a specialist told him the nerve damage was irreparable and he would have to endure pain for the rest of his life. He said: "I then got in contact with my local councillor who immediately got the metal marked and the bollard replaced. He also started me up on a compensation claim but eight months later I was told the council had a three-day inspection window so I wasn't eligible."

A solicitor's letter sent on behalf of Sefton Council to Denis states: "The council must maintain certain roads and pavements. However, you are not likely to prove liability if they operate a reasonable inspection system to identify defects and respond to reports of problems when they are made.

Denis Cullinan with another trip hazard near his home in Waterloo
Denis Cullinan with another trip hazard near his home in Waterloo -Credit:Liverpool Echo

"The area where you fell is subject to a walked inspection three times a year. The location was last inspected on 13 June 2023 and no damage was noted to the bollard in question."

Given there were two months between the inspection date and Denis' accident, this explanation does not sit easily with Denis, who said: "They left that metal sticking up there and I didn't stand a chance."

Denis pointed out there's another metal protrusion sticking out of the ground just 50 yards from where he had his fall. We accompanied Denis as he took us to the corner of Church Road and Dean Street in Waterloo where a jagged metal protrusion could be seen sticking out of the tarmac. He said: "This is a very busy corner and after my near death accident, I am disgusted that these things are still happening.

"This metal has been here since November last year so where are the inspections and what good are they? These things are potential death traps for people like me."

Sefton Council was approached for comment but said they do not comment on individual cases. However, since the ECHO contacted them, the council have removed the metal object on the corner of Church Road and Dean Street.

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