Popular Devon busker breaks neck after fall in woods

Popular Devon busker breaks neck after fall in woods

Popular Devon busker Jerri Hart is facing a six-month stay in hospital after breaking his neck while walking through woods in Dawlish. The 60-year-old, who always pulls in a big crowd with his jazz singing and trumpet playing, fell down a ravine while on the way back to retrieve something from his car.

His wife Louise heard a noise and discovered him lying at the bottom of an embankment. It took emergency services - including Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team, paramedics and firefighters - around four hours to safely carry him to an awaiting ambulance.

Since the incident, which took place on March 13, Jerri, of Starcross, has been recovering at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. Jerri was diagnosed with a bone condition in his 20s called ankylosing spondylitis.

Read next:

The long-term condition causes painful inflammation of the spine and other areas of the body and changed his once 6ft stature earning him the nickname The Crooked Crooner. It means that surgery to correct his broken neck is not an option.

Instead, Jerri remains bedbound while his neck heals and his rehabilitation will see him transferred to a specialist spinal treatment centre in Salisbury. Doctors have told Jerri that it is hoped he will be able to sing and play again, and return to his beloved busking.

Jerri Hart, aka The Crooked Crooner
Jerri Hart, aka The Crooked Crooner -Credit:Submitted pic

Jerri's daughter Chloe, an actress in London who has enjoyed performing with her dad in the past, has said that Jerri is keen to let people know why he has been absent from Devon's streets recently and that he will battle to make a comeback as soon as as he is able to.

Jerri regularly performs around the south west including in Exeter, Newton Abbot, Teignmouth and Sidmouth.

Chloe said: "He and his wife have a bit of land in woods in Dawlish and go there every day. He went to get something from their car doing the same walk he always does but slipped on a little bit of wood. He snapped his neck and fell down a ravine around 9pm.

"Paramedics arrived but due to the trek to get him back up to the ambulance they called Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team. Due to his physical disability, they couldn't put a collar on him.

Devon busker Jerri Hart
Devon busker Jerri Hart -Credit:Jerri Hart

"It took three paramedics to carry him carefully up the bank. What has made his situation more complex is he can't have surgery as it's not safe with the bone condition he has. He is on bed rest for 12 weeks and will then have 12 weeks of physiotherapy in Salisbury. He is doing all right.

"He is a funny, funny man and is keeping his spirits up with the help of his three daughters and wife. He is missing being outdoors but we are allowed to take him outside in his bed for a couple of hours to get some fresh air, but he's now allowed to get out of bed.

"He is keeping himself busy with drawing and physiotherapy. We are hoping to bring his trumpet up at some point when he is able to play outside."

Jerri Hart at Princesshay shopping centre Exeter marking the Blitz anniversary
Jerri Hart at Princesshay shopping centre Exeter marking the Blitz anniversary in 2021 -Credit:MATT AUSTIN

Chloe explained that his future prognosis remains hopeful. She said: "He will definitely walk again as he has got the feeling back in both of his legs. He had no feeling on his right side for a couple of weeks but he has managed to get that back.

"His neck is never going to heal fully and it's going to be a long process. The doctors have said hopefully he will be able to sing and play again, but we won't know anything fully until he can get out of bed.

"I'm getting married in two years so he needs to be able to walk me down the aisle and sing at my wedding!"

Passing on a message from Jerri to his loyal busking supporters, she said: "He wants people to know what has happened because he doesn't want them to think he's disappeared. He is missing it and wants to get back out there."

Bristol-born Jerri came to music in his early twenties to make money. In an interview with DevonLive in September 2021, Jerri said: "I happened to have an old trumpet, so I learnt a couple of tunes, went out in the street, played them for an hour and earnt a fiver - which in 1986 was great.

"I thought, 'Wow! This is good!' So that's what started it off, really."

Jerri Hart performing in Kingsmead Square in Bath -Credit:Richard Mills
Jerri Hart performing in Kingsmead Square in Bath -Credit:Richard Mills

Just six months later he was asked to join a reggae band and later formed his own band - The Rhythm Doctors. Jerri and the band spent 15 years touring around the world and then eventually broke up. He has also toured as a standup comedian.

Jerri has been a busker for decades and among his army of fans he can count world-famous rockstar Rick Parfitt of Status Quo. Last year, DevonLive reported he had his trumpet stolen just weeks before performing at Glastonbury Festival.

It was taken while he was unpacking his van ready to play in Sidmouth. The Selmer concept TT trumpet - worth more than £3,500 - was never recovered but he was able to buy a new one thanks to a fundraiser to replace it.