THE statement issued to The Northern Echo yesterday by the parents of railway accident victim Ben Woods makes heartbreaking reading.

Ben is critically ill after being struck by a train at Hurworth, near Darlington, on Monday - his 17th birthday. He has lost an arm and had a leg amputated. He may lose his other foot.

As his father Paul said yesterday, it is every parent's nightmare to receive a telephone call bringing such grim news, and our hearts and prayers are with Ben and his family.

It is a credit to the family that, at such a difficult time, they had the courage and sensitivity to publicly thank the hospital staff who have worked so hard and expertly to save their son's life.

Mr Woods also made an impassioned appeal to Ben's friends not to forget him and to help him in the months and years ahead.

We echo those words because Ben will need real friends - friends who appreciate that, despite his disabilities, he remains the same kind and popular young man he was before this terrible accident.

First class reality

TODAY is an important day in the history of North-East sport.

In a region dominated by the passion for football, cricket will today attract a crowd of around 17,000 people to County Durham for a one-day international between England and India.

Night games, played in "pyjamas" under floodlights, might not be to the taste of the cricket purists, but the entertainment value is unequivocal.

Weather permitting, we will witness a memorable sporting spectacle and - fingers crossed - an England victory.

But the event is more than just about sport. It is about promoting this great region in a way that no marketing campaign can equal.

As The Riverside - beautifully located and thoroughly impressive - progresses majestically towards full Test status, we again pay tribute to those who had the vision and courage to make the first-class cricket dream a reality in County Durham.