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Santa stunt victim says sorry to fans; VILLA: Skydiver Nigel Rogoff lost a leg after he hit stadium roof 10 years ago.

Byline: By Edward Chadwick

THE parachutist who was badly injured after plummeting from a stand at Villa Park while dressed as Father Christmas has said sorry to young fans who witnessed the terror - a decade after the stunt went wrong.

Nigel Rogoff clipped the Trinity Road Stand as he miscued the tricky descent in front of 39,000 fans in December 1998 and then plunged 80ft during the half time break in a match against Arsenal.

The RAF veteran cheated death after landing in a heap just yards from spectators and later had a leg amputated.

But 10 years on, as Martin O'Neill's side prepare to face the Gunners again on Saturday, 49-year-old Nigel said he wanted to apologise to children and families who saw the sickening accident.

"I probably had a shocking effect on a lot of people's lives that evening," he said from his home in South Africa.

"There were young people close to where I impacted.

"I still feel guilty about that. All I can do is apologise.

"They came to watch a football match and they saw Father Christmas bounce off the stadium roof."

Nigel, who had clocked up 6,000 jumps in a 23-year military career, needed 177 units of blood as surgeons operated on two broken legs, pelvis and arm and internal injuries.

He spent three weeks on a ventilator and admits he is lucky to be alive but said the accident had led to the defining moment in his life - meeting his wife, Sarah, who was working on the rehabilitation ward where he recovered from his injuries.

The couple now have twins, aged seven, and Mr Rogoff has raised thousands of pounds for amputees, most recently by kayaking around the British Isles last summer.

He has also campaigned for more people to give blood and raised the profile of the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association.

He said: "The weather conditions were marginal but the guy on the ground gave it the okay, though obviously the decision to leave the plane was entirely mine.

"Nobody was pushed out.

"It was a very bad day at the office.

"If I could turn back the clock of course I'd want my leg back but I'm never going to get that.

"When I lost my leg, I thought 'what's round the corner for me?' But all the pieces of the jigsaw came together.

"It was almost as if it was my destiny."

CAPTION(S):

Nigel Rogoff dressed as Father Christmas makes his descent but (inset) gets it wrong and hits the stadium roof.; Nigel Rogoff is stretchered away after the accident 10 years ago, (centre) Roger with wife Sarah and their twins, and Roger at Villa in 1999.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 20, 2008
Words:451
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