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

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 one 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 One of excerpts from the Animal Instinct biography telling the story of the accident. Plus a thank you note written by Rick to fans in early 1985 and a quote by Rick from earlier this month.

The Accident - Animal Instinct Biography 1987 Quotes

"Flash bastard!"

Two men sat in their Alfa Romeo, waiting to make a left turn on to the A57 road to Sheffield, when they saw the shiny black 1984 Corvette Stingray zip by on the main road. They didn't see who was actually at the wheel, but they were certain this guy was some kind of jerk. Burning rubber like that in a fancy American sports car that would have cost any decent working-class Englishman over a year's wages - whoever Mr. Corvette was, he deserved a good scare.

Rick Allen had no idea there was another car behind his new Corvette until the Alfa Romeo came roaring past him on a bridge. Rick had been out for a pleasant afternoon spin with his girlfriend, Miriam Barendsen, enjoying the lush green glow of the English countryside west of Sheffield on an unseasonably warm New Year's Eve. Rick had even opened up the Stingray's sunroof to soak up the sunshine and fresh air on the way back to Sheffield. Miriam was spending the Christmas holidays with Rick's family before she and the twenty-one-year old drummer returned to Holland where he was in the middle of recording a new album with his band Def Leppard. That afternoon, the two of them had nothing on their minds but the gorgeous weather, the promise of some jolly new Year's Eve festivities and the brand new year ahead of them.

The Alfa Romeo brought them out of their reverie - fast. Once the Alfa Romeo passed them, instead of letting the Stingray just eat his exhaust, the driver slowed up. Rick's temper started to get the better of him. He was out for a pleasure cruise, not a game of chicken. Rick tried to pass the Alfa a couple of times with no luck. This went on for almost four miles. The Rick found an opening and pulled up alongside the Alfa. For a brief moment, Rick was window-to-window with the two punks, evil grins growing in twisted upward curves on their faces as they dangerously edged their Alfa closer to the Corvette, practically trying to push Rick and Miriam right off the road.

Rick was really mad now. He hit the accelerator and the Corvette took off at Indy 500 velocity. But with the sudden rush of speed and the disadvantage of driving an American left-hand drive vehicle on an English road, Rick didn't see the left-hand curve up ahead until it was too late. The Stingray whipped around the corner and hit a brick wall, taking a lot of the bricks with it as the car skidded along the wall, flipped over and finally landed on its roof. The Alfa Romeo took off like a shot. Police later questioned two men in connection with the accident, but they denied everything.

Miriam was trapped in the passenger seat. Rick, thrown free of the car, was in a field on the other side of the brick wall. Though he had landed on his head, a decade of playing rock & roll drums for a living had already exacted its quota of brain damage. But his left arm had been ripped off at the shoulder. Within two minutes of the accident, a nurse [Doreen Billington] who lived nearby was tending to his injuries. Another nurse, who was passing by in her car, pulled over and bandaged his shoulder where the arm had been severed. The nurses, who later declined to be identified, also found the arm and packed it in a bucket of ice until the ambulance team arrived. Miriam, badly bruised, was helped out of the car and comforted at a nearby house.

Less then twenty minutes after the accident, Rick Allen was in the casualty ward at Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, under heavy sedation. Later, though, he would recall being completely conscious in those first few minutes after the crash. Standing in that field on the precipice of total shock, suddenly realizing his left arm was no longer attached to his body, he screamed out to Miriam, "God, I'll never play drums again!".

Read Part Two of Rick Allen's accident story

Rick Allen - December 2014 Interview Quote

"It was obviously an awful time you know losing my arm, especially being a drummer. But honestly it's really become a blessing. It's something that I've been able to share with others. Especially some of our wounded warriors and just being able to share my life experience and inspire others. What a great deal. You know it's really become something very special and it's something that's very healing to myself as well. Not only to the men and women that I work with but to me."

Rick Allen Thank you note - From 1985 Fan Club Newsletter

"Hello there,

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to the many people who wrote to me whilst in hospital, I must say that the letters & cards were a great comfort to me, and made my stay in hospital much more bearable.

As for the future Def Leppard will carry on as before, and when the next album is complete we shall be back on the road ASAP.

I've recently been working with my new drum kit, and so far everything is going really well, thanks for all your support, and I'll look forward to seeing you in the near future.

Sincerely, Rick Allen."

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