Sir Richard Branson has suffered a ‘colossal’ bicycle crash after his brakes failed while taking part in an endurance charity race across the British Virgin Islands this week.
The 71-year-old billionaire feared he had broken his back after colliding with another rider during day two of the Strive BVI event – which sees fitness fanatics complete a series of gruelling water and land-based challenges over the course of several days.
The Virgin founder said he had to be treated for severe cuts and bruises on his elbow, an ‘extraordinarily big bump’ on his hip and a ‘massive’ hematoma on his leg after flying off his bike and crashing onto the hard concrete road on the island of Tortola.
In a blog post on his Virgin website on Wednesday, the father-of-three said there was ‘no question’ that wearing a helmet saved his life.
The entrepreneur shared photos from moments after the crash which show him laying on his back next to fellow rider Felix Stellmaszek.
In another shot the tycoon is seen smiling with his thumb up while holding an ice pack as he is pictured getting into the van which took him to the Virgin Gorda hospital.
Meanwhile other snaps show a huge, bloodied lump on his left hip and a heavily bruised and scratched arm through his torn cycling shirt.
British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, 71, suffered a ‘colossal’ bike crash during a charity event on the British Virgin Islands (Pictured: Sir Richard gives thumbs up as he gets in van to be taken to hospital)
The Virgin founder said he had to be treated for severe cuts and bruises on his elbow, an ‘extraordinarily big bump’ on his hip (pictured) and a ‘massive’ hematoma on his leg after flying off his bike and crashing onto the hard concrete road on the island of Tortola
The 71-year-old billionaire feared he had broken his back after colliding with another rider during day two of the Strive BVI challenge – which sees fitness fanatics complete a series of gruelling water and land-based courses over several days (Pictured moments after collision)
Adrenaline junkie Sir Richard Branson’s countless brushes with death… in his own words
This week is not the first time Sir Richard Branson has had a brush with death. In his 2017 autobiography, Finding My Virginity, the tycoon lists his near-fatal experiences in an appendix entitled 75 Close Shaves. Some of them are listed below…
1972: Survived a fishing boat sinking on honeymoon with my first wife, Kristen, off Mexico. We decided to jump off the boat and swim for shore, while the others stayed put — we were the only survivors.
1976: Flew a microlight aircraft by mistake. It was the first time I’d sat in it, I had no idea how to fly it and accidentally took off. I was pulling wires out desperately. I cut the engine and managed to crash-land into a field. My instructor died in an accident the next day.
1980 — I stubbed my toe while walking around Necker Island and suddenly fell down a gaping gorge. I managed to get my hand to the other side, and Steve Barron managed to rescue me, pulling me up before I fell to what would have been certain death on the jagged rocks below.
1985 — Sank in the [high-altitude hot-air balloon capsule] Virgin Atlantic Challenger 1 as we were crossing the Atlantic, had to be pulled out of the ocean.
1986 — Crashed a car while driving through the Alps with my family. I hit some ice and went down a small cliff and turned the car over.
1986 — On my first solo hot-air balloon flight, I crashed badly, smashing into the ground. It was a sign of things to come.
1986 — On my first time skydiving, there was one cord that opened the parachute and one that got rid of it. I pulled the wrong cord by mistake. I was falling through the air before an instructor managed to yank my spare ripcord.
1987 — On our attempt to cross the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon, the balloon’s solar heating was too good and we headed up, up and up with seemingly no way to stop it. My co-pilot Per managed to bring the balloon down just before the capsule imploded and we tumbled to our deaths.
1987 — On the same challenge I lost my co-pilot when Per jumped into the Atlantic, leaving me alone in the hot-air balloon as it disappeared back above the clouds. I was convinced I was going to die. On that memorable flight…I managed to crash the balloon into the North Sea and was rescued by helicopter.
1989 — I decided to make an entrance to my wedding with Joan, dangling from a helicopter in an all-white suit. I dropped into the shallow end of the pool by mistake, smashed my legs, and spent the whole wedding hobbling.
1991 — In a hot air balloon saw it catch fire at 30,000 feet. We managed to extinguish the fire before the balloon was destroyed. On the same balloon flight, we lost half our fuel when full tanks dropped as we jettisoned empty fuel. We thought we would run out of fuel halfway across the Pacific, before strong winds in the jet stream saved us. We crashed in the Artic — successfully completing the challenge, but crashing in minus-50-degree temperatures 3,000 miles from our planned destination in Los Angeles.
2001 — Narrowly missed stepping on a live track with 25,000 volts charged above, while inspecting our new tilting trains in England.
2004 — Agreed to do a bungee jump off Victoria Falls as part of my TV show “The Rebel Billionaire.” As I fell through the air I clipped my head on something and came back up with blood streaming down my face.
2007 — Jumped off Palms Casino in Las Vegas as we announced Virgin America’s new route to the city. After initially refusing to do the jump, I reconsidered and plunged down the building at high speed in strong winds. I smashed painfully hard into the buildings. Fortunately I hadn’t spun around, so my backside hit the wall rather than my head. It completely ripped the back of my trousers off, cut my legs and arm open and badly bruised my hand.
2016 — My life flashed before my eyes as I went over the handlebars while cycling on Virgin Gorda. My bike disappeared over the cliff, I escaped with a cracked cheek, severe cuts and bruises and a torn shoulder.
Source: Finding My Virginity
Sir Richard wrote: ‘I was navigating a steep corner, with a massive cliff drop to my left, a car coming up the hill, and my fellow Striver, Felix Stellmaszek, in front of me passing the car.
‘I pulled on both of my brakes, but they didn’t respond.
‘I was going faster and faster, with my options being to drop off the cliff, hit the car, or potentially run into Felix.’
He said he pulled on his brakes as tight as he could but they ‘didn’t respond’.
He added: ‘I cried out to Felix a warning – “brakes not working!” – but he had no chance of getting out of the way. We crashed – hard.
‘We both fell off our bikes and our heads and bodies slammed into the concrete road.
‘There is no question that wearing helmets saved our lives – not the first time that has been the case.
‘We both lay flat out on the road as the rest of the team gathered around us.
‘I stayed still, hoping I hadn’t broken my back or paralysed myself. Slowly, I moved my limbs and was relieved they responded.’
Both men were taken to Virgin Gorda hospital where they were treated for their injuries.
Sir Richard uploaded a video to his Instagram account today which documented the moment both men were waiting to be transported from the scene.
In the clip, Mr Stellmaszek recounts the moment Sir Richard crashed into him.
He says: ‘We had to break pretty hard… Richard in a very nice and gentle manner said: “My brakes are failing!”, next thing I know he jumped on my bike, we both crashed.
‘But I’ve never had someone push me off the road and apologise in advance, it was very gentle and kind of him I’ve gotta say.’
While giggling in the front of the vehicle, Sir Richard insists that he tried to pass him.
Mr Stellmaszek replies: ‘You’re making me laugh so hard it hurts’, to which Sir Richard says: ‘I think you might have saved my life because I was gathering such speed without the brakes.’
While laughing Mr Stellmaszek adds: ‘Well you said I make a good cushion… ah this hurts.’
The Strive BVI is described as a ‘multi-discipline challenge fundraising event across the British Virgin Islands entirely under human and sail power.’
It occurs each year and raises funds for Big Change, a charity founded by Sir Richard’s children Holly and Sam.
Sir Richard had enjoyed sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding around Anegada during the challenge’s first day.
On day two, the day of the crash, the entrepreneur had already endured a punishing 60km bike ride around the rolling hills of Tortola, before agreeing to do an extra 10km.
It was on his return down a steep winding road that the crash happened.
There are still hiking, swimming and sailing events planned for later this week, although it’s not known if Sir Richard will be taking part.
Sir Richard added: ‘Thanks so much to the medical team who helped us.
‘I’ve got some severe cuts and bruises on my elbow, an extraordinarily big bump on my hip and a massive hematoma on my leg. But it could have been so much worse.’
It’s not the first time the business mogul has been injured on his bike in the Virgin Islands.
In 2016, he cracked his cheek and tore several ligaments while riding in the Virgin Strive challenge in Leverick Bay, forcing him to have to drink tea through a straw.
He said at the time: ‘I was heading down a hill towards Leverick Bay when it suddenly got really dark and I managed to hit a “sleeping policeman” hump in the road head on.
‘The next thing I knew, I was being hurled over the handlebars and my life was literally flashing before my eyes.
‘I really thought I was going to die.
‘I went flying head-first towards the concrete road, but fortunately my shoulder and cheek took the brunt of the impact, and I was wearing a helmet that saved my life.’
Sir Richard added that wearing a helmet saved his life, and his bicycle went flying off the cliff’.
He continued: ‘I really couldn’t believe I was alive, let alone not paralysed.’
In a blog post in 2016 Sir Richard said had experienced various injuries and ‘many brushes with death’ over the years.
Sir Richard was cycling among the rolling hills of the island of Tortola when the collision occurred
Sir Richard shows off his bruised and scraped arm and torn cycling shirt following collision
In February that year he been bitten by stingrays while swimming with dozens of the ‘sharks’ in the Cayman Islands.
During the same trip he also smashed his head into a glass door while out shopping – and he had knocked teeth out twice while playing tennis over the previous year.
In 1985, his speedboat famously capsized in high seas about 140 miles from the Isles of Sicily as he tried to set a record for the fastest-ever Atlantic crossing.
In fact the tycoon has had so many near death experiences that he listed all of them in his second autobiography.
In Finding My Virginity, Sir Richard listed all of his skirmishes with death in an appendix entitled: 75 close shaves.
In 2016, Sir Richard cracked his cheek and tore several ligaments while riding in the Virgin Strive challenge in Leverick Bay, forcing him to have to drink tea through a straw (Pictured following 2016 crash)
The tycoon was on a training cycle run with his two children Holly and Sam when he cracked his cheek in 2016
Sir Richard was cycling on the British Virgin Islands when he last suffered a big bike crash in 2016
They include hitting his head while bungee jumping at Victoria Falls in 2004 and narrowly missing stepping on a live track with 25,000 volts charged above, while inspecting Virgin’s new tilting trains in England in 2001.
In 1976 he flew a microlight aircraft ‘by mistake’ when it accidentally took off as he sat in it – only for his instructor to die in an accident the next day.
And in 1980, he stubbed his toe while walking around his private Necker Island and suddenly fell down a gaping gorge before being pulled up by a friend and saved from the jagged rocks below.