It was the biggest day of her life and everything was poised for perfection.
The £2,000 dress fitted Sophie Clarke just so, her father was sitting next to her in a beautiful horse-drawn carriage, and she was heading for the church to marry the man of her dreams.
Then the horse bolted – and instead of looking forward to the wedding that was three years in the planning, the 29-year-old began to fear she would never see her husband again.
Bride Sophie planned to travel to church in a horse-drawn carriage
The jolt had thrown the driver and his assistant from the carriage. With no one at the reins, the terrified animal hit a car and Miss Clarke was pitched over the edge, where she hung dangerously close to a wheel.
As the carriage careered down the busy road, towards a railway crossing, Miss Clarke's father Bob, 56, managed to pull her back into the carriage.
But the horse galloped on, and fearing they would both be killed as it veered into the path of a lorry, he pushed his daughter from the carriage, speeding at up to 35mph, and threw himself out after her. He may have saved her life, but Miss Clarke hit the ground so hard she was concussed. Her big day was over – and it had not even started.
Sophie was rushed to hospital on a stretcher with fiance Karl Woods by her side after being thrown from her bridal carriage
Crash, bang, wallop: A van damaged after the horse bolted
Paramedics arrived and the bride's fiance, Karl Woods, was summoned from St Leonard's Church, in Bretforton, Worcestershire.
'I was waiting at the church when one of my friends came running up and said something terrible had happened to Sophie,' said Mr Woods, 36, who runs a clothes shop in Evesham.
'When we got there she was lying in the road covered in blood with a paramedic telling her not to move.' Miss Clarke, an accountant from South Littleton, was taken to hospital in a neck brace.
The £15,000 ceremony and reception for which she had spent years preparing, was cancelled. Reliving the experience, she said: 'Something spooked the horse. We thought we were going to die because we were heading for the railway crossing.
Pretty: Sophie Clarke, 29, prepares for her big day, which turned into a disaster
'Dad and I embraced each other because we thought it would be for the last time.
'One car did its best to stop the horse and pulled in front to slow it down – but it didn't work.
'Instead the horse just slammed into the car, throwing me right over. I opened my eyes to see the wheel of the carriage just inches away from my face. I was hanging out of the carriage, but luckily Dad had his hand on me.
'Somehow Dad pulled me back in, but when he saw a bend coming up in the road he knew we wouldn't make it and decided to push me out. I hit the ground and it's a bit of a blur from then.'
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She added: 'I had spent three years planning the ceremony and had even made handmade invitations. But none of that seems important any more. I am just so glad to be alive.'
The driver and his assistant both received medical attention, but were not badly hurt in the accident, while the horse was found grazing in a field nearby.
And there should be a happy-ever-after for Miss Clarke too. The couple have rescheduled their wedding for January, and are planning a smaller, more intimate ceremony.
She explained: 'I had a life-changing experience. It put into perspective for me that all of the fancy things, the posh invites and parties are not important.
'The only important thing is becoming Karl's wife.'Original here