A BY-ELECTION in one of Wigan’s parliamentary constituencies was avoided yesterday as Andy Burnham MP made it safely to the ground after a charity skydive.
The shadow health secretary completed the jump in memory of tragic Lowton teenager Toby Hart who died in a cliff fall accident last year.
It was third time lucky for the intrepid team – which included Toby’s dad Graham, best pal Cole Moores and our reporter James Illingworth – after two scheduled dives earlier in the year were postponed due to bad weather.
But in glorious sunshine above Langar Aerodrome in Nottinghamshire, Mr Burnham glided back to earth strapped to a member of the Red Devil’s parachute team.
Speaking to the Evening Post, Mr Burnham explained he was relieved to be back on the ground and he had not even told his mum his plans to do the jump.
He said: “It’s hard to put into words what we just did because it’s not like anything else. You can’t compare it to something else. Exhilarating doesn’t do it justice.
“You can’t get better causes to do something like this for. Both organ donation and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust are causes that if you get behind them you can make a difference and we are making a difference. The more we can do with things like this will put wind in their sails.
“I suppose it was a bit like politics up there, you just cross your fingers and hope for the best! I had to keep it a secret from my mum, that’s why I haven’t done too much publicity for it so she wouldn’t find out.
“But now I’m down it’s an incredible experience and all I can think is that I want to go up and do it again.
“But this is all for the memory of a young constituent of mine who’s life was taken away too soon. What a worthy cause.”
Two groups of four completed the daredevil experience – jumping from heights of between 14,000 and 15,000 ft, with around 40 to 50 seconds of freefall before parachutes were opened.
Joining Graham and Mr Burnham on the sponsored jumps were representatives from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Organ Donation charities. The Hart family are proud supporters of organ donation after 16-year-old Toby helped save the lives of several people by donating his organs after his tragic death in Cornwall last summer.
Cystic Fibrosis was chosen as one of the recipient charities because Toby, who attended Lowton High and St John Rigby College, was a keen supporter of the charity and his friend Cole is a sufferer from the condition.
Graham, who was watched from the ground by wife Sally and Toby’s younger brother Stephen, said that after a long wait due to the postponed jumps the day had gone perfectly.
He said: “I’m relieved I’m down but I enjoyed it and I would do it again. We’ve raised about £2,000 just from today and that’s more than £7,000 in total which is fantastic.
“It’s apt we’ve done it today on the 22nd, 13 months to the day that Toby died.
“I know he will be up there watching us, splitting his sides at what we did today, saying ‘what is my dad doing?’.”
Sponsorship donations can still be made to Toby’s Gift, the organ donation awareness campaign set up in Toby’s name, which also supports the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Please visit the Toby Hart Just Giving website or text TOBS95 to 70070 to automatically send a donation of £5.