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Def Leppard Tour History Fan Archive.
Rick Allen's 1984 Car Accident 31st Anniversary - Part Two

Thursday, 31st December 2015

Rick Allen 1986.
Screenshot by dltourhistory

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash 31 years ago today on New Year's Eve 1984.

Read part two of his story.

Rick, who turned 52 last month, was driving back from the Ladybower Reservoir outside of Sheffield, England on the A57 road with girlfriend Miriam Barendsen when he was involved in an accident.

Rick lost control of his left hand drive Corvette and hit a wall. His seatbelt came undone and took off his left arm as he was thrown through the sunroof. Luckily a local nurse and a policeman passing by stopped to help. According to Phil Collen in 2013 the pair later married each other (they both appeared in the 1998 Behind The Music show).

Surgeons managed to reattach the arm but sadly on 4th January 1985 it had to be amputated. He left hospital on 29th January 1985 and was back with the band at Wisseloord Studios in Holland on 22nd February. Rick managed to recover to play drums again within 3 months of his accident and has continued to be the drummer with Def Leppard to the present day.

Read Part Two of excerpts from the Animal Instinct biography telling the story of the accident. Plus an excerpt from a Daily Star news story.

The Accident - Animal Instinct Biography 1987 Quotes

Rick Savage Accident Reaction

"It was an unbelievable feeling, an emptiness," Sav says, still with considerable pain. "I've never been close to anybody that died or had something terrible happen to them before. It was a feeling I'd never experienced."

"The fact that it was New Year's Eve made it worse. It's always a time, especially around my house, where people forget whatever troubles they've got. They have a drink and the world's at peace for at least twelve hours. It was a new year, 1985, and I was thinking about future years, that Rick would never be the same again. How the hell can you celebrate New Year again, even in 1995, without thinking about this?. It would always be a reminder to him."

While Mensch and the other Leppards kept British Telecom working overtime, a surgical team at Hallamshire hospital led by micro vascular expert Robert Page sewed Rick's arm back on in a delicate four hour operation. Rick was still under sedation when Sav and Russell visited him at the hospital on New Year's Day. Sav was pleasantly surprised by the colour in Rick's left hand. "I though great, the blood is going through. It's working."

Joe drove up from London on January 2nd to visit Rick on his way back to Wisseloord Studios in Holland where the rest of Def Leppard were scheduled to resume recording, if possible. Along with Sav, Joy, and Rick's older brother and ex-Leppard road manager Robert, who had been keeping a bedside vigil and acting as de facto press liaison since the accident, Joe went into hospital via the laundry door to dodge the local reporters and photographers at the front step. Upstairs, he was greeted by Rick's parents and Miriam, sporting two king-size black eyes and a badly swollen face.

"I hated every minute of being there. I just didn't want to see him in that state. I'd seen this guy as a ripping, young, muscle-packed drummer that made John Bonham sound like rubbish. I don't mean any disrespect to Bonham or Led Zeppelin. But to me, this guy was the best rock drummer in the world. And in that bed, I was seeing a body that would never work the same again. I felt so bad for him, because I knew how much playing the drums meant to him."

On January 3rd, Def Leppard - minus their drummer - reconvened at Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, Holland to resume work on their fourth studio album. The mood both at the studio and at the hotel in nearby Ood Loosdrecht was bleak, but the band had decided to continue recording in spite of Rick's condition. Indeed, they voted to continue, largely, because of it. "Most of Rick's parts at that time had been done," Joe argues, "so apart from the mental anxiety for the first week that we were obviously going to suffer, there was nothing physical to stop us from carrying on. But we also knew that if Rick had been conscious, if he'd been in any state to say anything about it, he would have said 'Get on with it.' We had to do it for him."

Two days later, during a late night session at the studio, the band received a fresh shipment of bad news. Rick's reattached arm had become infected and Dr. Page's surgical team, very reluctantly, had taken his left off off again, this time permanently. "When we heard about the arm coming back off, everybody cried," Sav says grimly. "Finally, we decided, for both his sake and ours, that we had to go back to work. It strengthened our resolve. Because we knew he wouldn't want us to sit around crying over him. He wanted us to go in there and do it right."

Read Part Three of Rick Allen's accident story

Daily Star - 2nd January 1985 Article Quote

Miracle Op For Rock Star Rick

Millionaire rock drummer Rick Allen has had his left arm torn off in an horrific car crash.

But doctors stitched it back in a miracle of micro surgery.

And last night a hospital spokesman said: "We are hopeful we will be able to save it."

Rick 21, whose British group Def Leppard are superstars in America, is described as "critical but stable" after the four-hour operation.

The accident happened on New Year's Eve.

Rick was thrown out of his black Chevrolet Stingray when it left a winding moorland road near his home city of Sheffield and overturned several times.

The arm was torn off at the shoulder.

Rick's Dutch fiancee, 22-year-old Miriam Barendsen, suffered head injuries and had to be cut free from the wreckage.

Rick - and the arm - were taken 10 miles to Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital where the operation...