It should have been the dream wedding in Crete, with Leon and Kirsty King celebrating all week with friends in the sun.
Instead it turned in to a ‘week of hell’, when a car plowed into the wedding convoy on the way to the ceremony, leaving best man Dean Fitton and his wife Gemma, from Snodland, trapped in their car with multiple injuries.
Dean explained this week how he had yelled at Leon from the ambulance, telling him to press on with the ceremony despite the disaster, as the wedding had previously been canceled due to Covid.
And although the wedding did go ahead, groom Leon, from Wouldham, told KentOnline he had returned home on Tuesday, May 24, simply glad everyone was still alive – only for his own car to inexplicably burst into flames outside his home in the night.
“It was a long week of hell,” said Leon, 40. “We spent the week traveling back and forth from hospital, before we flew home. The best man and his wife had to take an air ambulance and now she’s in Pembury Hospital with a back injury.”
Leon recalled how he had been at the front of the wedding convoy, on Thursday, May 19, when he saw a car approaching them on the other side of the road.
“There were five cars traveling down and we were about eight minutes away from the venue,” he said. “A car came at us at speed and hit the fourth car along in the convoy. It hit it and spun it onto the other side of the road.
Leon and Kirsty King’s wedding went ahead after they knew their friends were not in a critical condition
“I saw it in my rear view mirror. I just saw the car in front swerve and then the impact.”
Having turned his car round and driven back to the crash site, Leon found his friend’s car on the side of the road “smashed to pieces”.
“The fire brigade attended but they were atrocious,” added Leon. “They attended to the other vehicle first – which the people had walked out of.
“My best man’s wife was just dragged out of the car. Over here they would take the roof off and lift them out, but they just dragged them out.”
Despite Dean’s insistence the wedding went ahead, Leon followed the ambulance to hospital in Rethymno, where he said the nightmare continued.
Leon King has spoken out about his wedding in Crete turned into a ‘week of hell’
“I will never say anything about the NHS again because our medical system is so much better. The only way I could describe the hospital was like a Romanian orphanage.
“The wedding went ahead several hours later when we managed to find out they were stable in hospital.
“Everyone was still quite emotional. We were concerned about my friend’s wife and her spine. We were all very concerned.”
“It’s been very stressful,” he added. “It’s taken a toll on everyone and everyone was stressed out. We barely just got through the wedding ceremony because everyone was very distressed and upset.”
Dad-of-four Dean, 40, who lives with wife Gemma, 38, in Hambrook Road, Holborough Lakes, said the week had started well and the party had been optimistic after the previous cancellation.
Dean Fitton with wife Gemma in Crete, the day before their friends’ wedding
“It’s been pushed back due to Covid so they’ve had lots of problems getting to that point,” said Dean, who has been friends with Leon for more than 30 years, ever since they were childhood friends in Manchester.
“We arrived at the villa, and it was perfect.
“We headed over to the venue in convoy but along the way something went wrong with the car in front – a wheel cap came off and we ended up switching positions.
“I ended up moving forward one, but I’m glad that we did, because the car that was in that position was lighter than ours and there was a 15-month-old child in it.
“I don’t know if they would have survived, and there would have been more injuries because there was more people in there.
“They just threw us in an ambulance, which then found every pothole on the island to drive over.”
“It was a killer of a crash,” he added. “We were traveling along a single carriageway and the convoy approached evening.
“As we went round the bend I just remember seeing this black car coming towards us.
“He didn’t follow the road round the bend, he just came across our side of the road, then he tried to correct it and by doing that plowed straight into us.
“If he didn’t correct it he might have skimmed a car or gone between two cars.
“It was a head-on collision with both cars going about 60-70 mph.”
The car which collided with the wedding convoy
With Dean unable to walk he had to be helped from the car, but his wife Gemma, 38, had suffered more severe injuries.
“The car started smoking and they tried to get us away,” he added. “My wife had fractured her wrist and fractured her lower fifth vertebrae.
“In the UK she would have been cut out of the car, but they were making her stand up and making her stand on glass.
“We were with people who were first responders and they kind of told them what needed to be done.
“They just threw us in an ambulance, which then found every pothole on the island to drive over.
“Once we were in the ambulance I shouted that Leon had to go and get married because he had been waiting that long.
“But he didn’t – he followed the ambulance to the hospital to check on us first.
“When he realized we were going to make it he went to get married and then came back afterwards.”
At the hospital, Gemma was in agony, and Dean said he could hear her screaming in the next room.
“They were pulling her arm and she was begging them to stop,” he added. “I was in the opposite room and trying to get to her.”
The car best man Dean and wife Gemma had been traveling in
Although Dean’s ankles had swollen badly, he was told he could leave, but he was determined to stay with his wife as he was unhappy with the level of care.
“I basically had to steal a wheelchair and park it outside her room,” he said. “In Greece they don’t have nurses like we do and it’s left to the family to provide care. The nurses just come in and give pain relief every now and again.
“The daughter of the lady next to us spoke English and helped us translate.
“We found out the woman whose husband caused the crash was in the next bed but one, which traumatized my wife more. We ended up getting her moved.”
With poor hygiene and a lack of dignity for patients on the ward, Dean said he was relieved when his travel insurance firm arranged for Gemma to be taken to a private hospital, where the care was “out of this world”.
The Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury
“It’s a lesson in getting good insurance,” he added. “The company got us a private jet home – they flew from Düsseldorf to Crete and took us to Biggin Hill. There was a German doctor and an Austrian paramedic and their attention was on Gemma the whole time.”
Although recovering at Pembury, it’s not yet known when Gemma will be allowed home and Dean said she remains mentally scarred by the experience.
“She was so traumatized she didn’t want them to touch her,” he added. “She got to the point where she didn’t want to eat because she didn’t want to go to the bathroom.
“They estimated recovery to be around October.”
Asked if he wished he’d never gone on the holiday, Dean said he remained determined to see the positive side of events.
Leon King said he’s just glad everyone’s alive after the disastrous week
“I wouldn’t change it,” he said. “Leon is my friend of over 30 years and we’ve been through a hell of a lot together.
“We’re like brothers. I would go anywhere he needed me to go.
“We were sad that it happened to us but honestly we’re glad it was us and not the other car, because there was more people in there.
“We’re not bitter because it could have been so much worse.”
And while Leon agreed, saying he was simply glad everyone survived, he explained how his disastrous week didn’t end on his return home.
Firefighters put out the blaze when Leon’s Audi A5 caught fire
Having driven back from Gatwick on Tuesday, and parked up in Pilgrims Way outside his home, neighbors called the fire brigade when Leon’s car burst into flames at around 1am on Wednesday. Dean and Gemma’s luggage was in the car at the time.
The fire service spokesman said it was believed the fire had started accidentally in the engine compartment due to a fault – and Leon is now calling for answers from manufacturer Audi, which has been approached for further comment.
“Luckily my wife and six-month-old son where not in the car at the time,” he said. “Audi didn’t seem to care that their car had caught a light.
“No one there seemed to care. I would have imagined they would have sent someone down to investigate what happened to make sure it doesn’t happen to someone else.
“Having the car catch fire has just compounded everything,” he added. “I just can’t see how this has all happened in the space of a week.
Leon King is calling for answers after his Audi A5 inexplicably caught fire
“At the end of the day the most important thing is everyone’s still alive.”