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'Shocked and devastated': Family says waterslide accident which broke a man's neck should never have happened

David Briffaut, 23, with his girlfriend Penny Bristow. Credit: Family photograph

A young British holidaymaker from Essex could face being left paralysed for life after breaking his neck in an accident at a Spanish waterpark.

David Briffaut, 23, lost consciousness and suffered serious injuries after hitting the water in a pool at the bottom of a slide at the Aqualandia tourist attraction in Benidorm.

He is being treated in a Spanish hospital and his family fear he will be left paraplegic after scans showed he has two broken vertebrae in his neck.

  • Click to watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Serena Sandhu

His parents, teacher Lorraine and construction worker Stephane, have flown out to bring Mr Briffaut, who works as a green keeper at a golf club in Essex.

A spokesman for the park said the slide was "completely safe" and that it accepted no responsibility for the accident.

Mr Briffaut's uncle, Mark Pooley, said: "This is every family's worse nightmare. David is a wonderful young man, who was enjoying an innocent day out with his girlfriend.

"We are praying for a miracle, but we have been told that the injuries he has sustained are very traumatic.

"We cannot understand how this happened at a family tourist destination. David was behaving in the normal way, and he had not been drinking.

"We believe there should be a full investigation into the circumstances of what happened."

  • This video captured the moment before David Briffaut hit the water and broke his neck

We're in shock, we're devastated, we're running a rollercoaster of emotion.

"It's very difficult to cope with and we're living day by day to be honest.

"He's had an accident which should never have happened and we feel we should let everyone know that.

"He was at a water park going down a family ride and it's ended in disaster through no fault of his own."

– Mark Pooley, David's uncle

Mr Briffaut was on holiday with his girlfriend of six years, Penny Bristow, at the time of the accident on the "Splash" slide.

They had been staying with friends and were on holiday to celebrate Ms Bristow completing a degree course in travel and tourism.

Mr Briffaut's family have set up a crowdfunding page to raise £75,000 to help pay for his care when he returns home, which has so far raised more than £40,000.

David Briffaut is being treated in hospital in Alicante where he has had several operations. Credit: Family photograph

Aqualandia spokesman Maria Jose Marcos said: "First of all, I would like to clarify that, for various reasons, Aqualandia is not responsible for the accident which occurred on 8 July.

"The ride Splash is completely safe, as are the rest of slides of the park. Each season, before opening the park, an external company specialised in water parks makes an exhaustive review of all the slides. Beyond this, our staff check them every morning."

Mr Briffaut's family have set up a crowdfunding page to raise £75,000 to help pay for his care. Credit: Family photographs

We have video footage which plainly shows how the 23-year old man did not follow the guidelines for Splash. Our lifeguard team informed him of the rules of the ride and he didn't obey them.

"So, Aqualandia cannot be held for the consequences of visitors failing to follow safety rules. Of course, Aqualandia helped him and his friends in every way and our insurance covered all the medical attention.

"Aqualandia has a long history - 34 years - and safety is our top priority."

– Maria Jose Marcos, Aqualandia spokesman