From a wrongful arrest to a life-saving romance: the typos that have changed people’s lives

By Tom Lamont for the

One day in May this year, Luigi Rimonti left his home in Gateshead to catch a ferry from North Shields, the first stage in a 1,000-mile drive across Europe to Italy. A dapper, energetic 81-year-old, Rimonti had grown up in a suburb of Rome before coming to the north-east of England as a young man. Often, over the years, he had driven back to Rome, insisting to his two adult sons, Gino and Valter, that he preferred to make this long journey by car. They worried about their father on these drives, and this spring, for the first time, they persuaded Rimonti to equip his car with a satellite-navigation device.

Off the ferry in Amsterdam, Rimonti began to have difficulties with the satnav. He stopped in a petrol station: could someone there help him re-input his destination? A stranger obliged. Tap-tap-tap, enter. Rimonti thanked the stranger and drove on – south, he presumed, towards Rome.

After a day’s driving, Rimonti was looking forward to stopping somewhere for an overnight rest. The satnav hadn’t taken him on a route he recognised, but he seemed to be making good progress. He was surprised, then, to be told by the smooth, computerised voice of the satnav that he’d shortly be arriving at his destination. He had clocked hundreds of miles, though not yet the 1,000 he knew it would take to reach Rome. Rimonti’s son, Gino, picks up the story: “Dad was like, ‘This isn’t Italy.’ So he got out to check where he was. He must not have pulled the handbrake on properly.”

Rimonti had stopped his car on a slight slope. When he clambered out, the better to read the nearest road sign, his car began to roll backwards. Struck by the open door of the car, Rimonti was knocked over and dragged along. When the car struck the very road sign he’d been trying to read, it jolted, and Rimonti was able to tumble clear. He lay in shock on the road. His suitcases and belongings were now trapped in the boot of the car, which had been crunched shut by the collision. The car had also immobilised itself and would later be towed. Rimonti lay still, shaken and badly injured, too hurt to stand. He later told his sons: “Pensavo di essere morto.” I thought I was dead.

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