How 70-year-old cyclist was rescued by air ambulance minutes after crash thanks to location app What3Words

The rider suffered a fractured femur when he slipped on an oil slick and crashed into a grass verge 

A 70-year-old cyclist has shared his experience after he was rescued by air ambulance in just minutes thanks to the location app What3Words.

Algy Kazlauciunas was cycling in the Yorkshire Dales last September, when he hit an oil slick in the road and was sent crashing into a grass verge.

Kazlauciunas suffered a fractured femur in the fall and needed urgent medical attention, as two passing cyclists offered assistance.

After calling 999, initially the passing riders weren’t able to establish where they were to inform the ambulance service, but one of the cyclists had the app What3Words installed on his phone, which allowed him to give a unique code to the emergency services, which helped them pinpoint the location to a three-metre radius.  

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance was quickly dispatched and within 10 minutes Kazlauciunas was receiving treatment. 

He said: “It was one of the most unfortunate things that has happened in my life. An old truck had disposed of oil on the road and I hit the oil and that was it, I had no chance. I immediately realised that I couldn’t move and that no-one was there to help me.

“I remember the helicopter arriving and landing in the field and I wasn’t on the ground for too long before they took me to hospital. I was impressed by the people who stopped and were so helpful with everything. It was a real joy in terms of humanity.” 

The crash happened on September 4, 2020 near Nidderdale in North Yorkshire. 

Kazlauciunas was airlifted to Harrogate Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured femur and needed extensive surgery to have his leg pinned back together and a rod inserted.

He spent four days in hospital before he was able to return home.  

Kazlauciunas has not yet returned to cycling on the roads, but he has been riding indoors in his garage. 

Clinical operations manager for Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Matt Syrat, said: “There’s a lot of rural areas and less identifiable roads in Yorkshire and if a person cannot distinguish where they are, it can delay the time it takes for emergency services to reach the incident.  

“What3Words enables us to pinpoint a nearly exact location of the casualty using the three words given to us by the call taker and we can dispatch immediately. The What3Words app is invaluable to saving lives, especially in remote areas of Yorkshire.” 

The app, available on iOS and Android, helps pinpoint locations by using unique combinations of just three words.

What3Words divides the world into three metre squares and gives each square its own code, which can then be shared with other people to help them know your exact location.  

One of the riders helping Kazlauciunas, Peter Jackson quoted the What3Words reference ‘INFLATION, SURFER, INNER’ which led the emergency services straight to their location.  

The incident will be covered on reality TV show Helicopter ER on the channel Really in the UK on March 23, airing at 10pm. 

>>> Michał Kwiatkowski reveals he finished in front group of Milan-San Remo while suffering with broken rib

Yorkshire Air Ambulance serves five million people across Yorkshire and the charity needs to raise £12,000 every day to continue its work.  

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.