PARALYMPIAN sailor John Robertson has helped launch a new vessel.
The former Monkwearmouth pupil joined RAF personnel at the London Boat Show, to introduce their new Spitfire boat which supports the force’s Benevolent Fund.
John, who served in the RAF between 1989 and 1996 as a weapons technician, received help from the fund after a motorcycle accident left him paralysed from the chest down.
The 40-year-old said: “As a beneficiary and supporter of the RAF Benevolent Fund, it’s a real honour to launch Spitfire.
“The help I received from the Benevolent Fund has been absolutely life changing.”
After the accident in 1994, the fund stepped in to provide John with a specially-adapted house so he could continue to live independently.
“I have been in my flat for 17 years now and could not be happier,” he said.
“Without it I would have been living with my parents for years, or been in whatever council housing could have been found for me.
“As it is, the freedom and independence I’ve been given has allowed me to follow my dreams and find success doing what I love most.”
After the accident John decided to pursue his passion for sailing – going on to represent Great Britain, alongside team-mates Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas, at three Paralympic Games and win gold at the 2005 and 2006 World Championships.