Whitby karate star tells of Japan quake drama

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THE Whitby family of a karate expert caught up in the tsunami disaster in Japan have spoken of their relief after eventually hearing he was safe.

Doug and Valerie Heselton, parents of Richard who left the town 17 years ago to follow his dream, said they had been glued to the news channels over the weekend after the massive earthquake and 30ft wave which travelled several miles inland, swallowing up everything in its path.

Richard, who also teaches English at a university, lives in Tokyo with his wife Rieko and three-year-old daughter Robyn but is having to stay on the outskirts of the city with his wife’s parents.

At first Doug and Valerie feared the worst when they lost communication with Richard, a former student at the Whitby Shotokan Club and now third in the Japan Karate Association 2010 competition, while he was on a train.

Mrs Heselton said: “The first time he rang he said he was on the train coming home from work and it was shaking and shuddering and rumbling and he thought it was coming off the track.

“Suddenly he shouted ‘I have to go mum, there is another one coming’ and it got cut off.

“Naturally I was sick all weekend but when he rang the second time he said ‘we are all right, this is just a quick call from my mobile’.

“When he rang the third time Robyn shouted ‘I’m good nana, I’m good nana’. It was good to hear.”

Richard’s wife had a nine-hour journey to get back from work and the couple are now picking up the pieces in the aftermath of what has been described as the biggest catastrophe to hit Japan since the Second World War.

Mrs Heselton added: “The worry now is food and this reactor and electrical cuts but as long as they are all right that is the main thing. We are just worried but that is natural.”

The Heseltons said they had been inundated with phone calls from friends of Richard checking he was safe.