Dad tells son’s remarkable story

Jon Ker and Jim Martin whose micro-light crashed at Burgham Park.
Jon Ker and Jim Martin whose micro-light crashed at Burgham Park.

He’s been kidnapped in Iran, survived a freak accident on Ben Nevis and was badly injured in a microlight smash in Northumberland.

Not only has he diced with death on more than one occasion – and lived to tell the tale – but Rothbury’s Jon Ker was among the first on the scene at two major air disasters.

Jon Ker and Jim Martin whose micro-light crashed at Burgham Park.

Jon Ker and Jim Martin whose micro-light crashed at Burgham Park.

He has even flown thousands of miles on a motorised glider in the name of charity and was presented with a prestigious life-savers award.

Whichever way you look at it, the 45-year-old has certainly led an extraordinary and, in some instances, charmed life.

In fact, some may say that his story is so extreme that you just couldn’t write it.

But that is exactly what his father Les has done.

Les Ker of Guisborough has written a book about his son Jon's life titled Nine Lives of a Rescuer.

Les Ker of Guisborough has written a book about his son Jon's life titled Nine Lives of a Rescuer.

The 69-year-old retired police officer from Guisborough, North Yorkshire, felt that the incredible episodes in his son’s life were so extraordinary and so heroic that he just had to tell the story to a wider audience.

So he went to work on his first book. And two years down the line, he has released Nine Lives of a Rescuer.

Although, there is a strong argument to say that Jon, who has worked as a paramedic and in mountain rescue, has had at least that!

His life story certainly has a Boys’ Own feel about it.

And it all seemed to start after he joined the RAF as a 17-year-old.

He was among the first on the scene at the Lockerbie and Kegworth air crashes in 1988 and 1989 respectively, and even found the black box at Lockerbie.

In 2003, he flew to Norway and back on a motorised glider to raise £10,000 for the Great North Air Ambulance, which he helped set up.

A few years later, while climbing Ben Nevis with pals, a freak accident saw one of the group plunge to his death. The other two were stranded on the rock, but Jon, using all his emergency training, raised the alarm and managed to save Jim Martin.

As a result, Jon was presented with a Vodafone Life Savers Award 2006. In December 2007, Jon and Jim were left with horrific injuries after the microlight they were in smashed into trees at Bywell Farm. The tailplane of their aircraft suddenly detached causing it to nosedive.

Jon was left with a brain injury and fractures to both legs. He also endured months of rehabilitation.

Then, in 2010, while working as a paramedic in Iraq, the vehicle in front of him was blown up by a rocket launcher during an exercise to clear land mines. Jon rushed to the scene and helped save the life of a person who was in the destroyed vehicle.

The drama in his life didn’t stop there. Two years ago he was among a group of more than 30 people who was kidnapped, and held at gunpoint, in Iran while working as a medic for an oil survey company.

“Thankfully he was released a week later.

“I sound jinxed, don’t I,” says Jon, who now works as a paramedic on survey ships.

Jon, who lives in Coquetdale with partner Barbara Gibson, added: “But you have got to look at that in the respect that I have done a lot of high-risk activities, such as flying and rock climbing. I have to say that out of all the incidents in my life, I was incredibly lucky to survive the microlight crash. I should never have survived that. The investigators actually called it an unsurvivable accident.

“I have been rebuilding the strength in my legs but I don’t think I will ever fully recover from the head injury. My brain is not like it was before, my short-term memory is not brilliant, but I have accepted that.”

Jon admits that the title, Nine Lives of A Rescuer, is ‘quite apt’.

When asked whether he is lucky or unlucky, he takes a short time to think, before saying: “I am unlucky to have had these accidents, but I am lucky to have survived.”

His father Les agrees. He adds: “After the crash, and looking back over his life, I talked to his friends and they said that you should write a book about him. He has been through a lot.”

Les, who is married to Maureen, says he is pleased with the book, but admits that writing the piece sparked a range of emotions.

He said: “I did enjoy writing it, I really did, but it was emotional at times, going through the various things that he has been through.”

Like Jon, he agrees that his son’s most lucky escape was the microlight crash.

“No doubt about it,” he tells the Gazette.

“That was a tough time for all of us, very stressful, and we thought initially after the air crash he might not pull through.

“But I have to say that I think it is remarkable how he has recovered from it and a lot of that has been down to him.

“The plane crashes at Lockerbie and Kegworth did affect him too, no doubt about that.”

Nine Lives of a Rescuer by Les Ker is available from Amazon and Waterstones.