11-year-old boy becomes first patient air lifted by Air Ambulance Northern Ireland

The official launch of the new Air Ambulance Northern Ireland service is due to take place in early August, and while the crew were out on training flights and communication checks, they were dispatched by Air Traffic Control to a serious incident in County Down.

Report: Declan Keogh / @DeclanTKeogh

An 11-year-old boy was seriously injured following an incident involving a tractor at Castlewellan, Co. Down. Northern Ireland Ambulance Service received a call about the incident at around 1.45pm on Saturday 22nd July.

Emergency Medical Dispatcher Michelle Foster dealt with the call and was supported throughout by control room colleagues Susan Cunningham, Martin Campbell, Richard Dundass and Ashleigh Murray.

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Photo: (Air Ambulance Northern Ireland via Twitter @AirAmbulanceNI)

As the call progressed, Rapid Response Paramedic Brian Lynn and A&E Ambulance crew Karen Graham and Paul McDowell were dispatched to the scene.

Ambulance Control contacted HEMS at Maze Long Kesh and asked duty Airdesk Paramedics Phil Hay and Mike Patton if the air ambulance crew could be made available to respond to the incident. In the interests of patient safety, and without hesitation, Pilot Dave O’Toole took to the air with a crew of Dr Darren Monaghan (Clinical Lead) and Paramedic Glenn O’Rorke (Operational Lead).

Photo: (Northern Ireland Ambulance Service via Twitter @NIAS999)

The Air Ambulance crew and arrived at the scene in approximately seven minutes.

The boy whose injuries were described as serious, was airlifted by the new HEMS to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where he is in a stable condition. The journey took just eight minutes to RBHSC.

The incident was the first callout mission for Air Ambulance Northern Ireland and its crew ahead of its anticipated launch next month.

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Photo: (Air Ambulance Northern Ireland)

HEMS Operational Lead Glenn O’ Rorke said the new service to Northern Ireland will make a huge difference. “Having a full doctor and paramedic team on board it was felt necessary to respond. It is very important to get there as soon as we can for anybody who has any serious injuries. The air ambulance service will ‘make a huge difference’ to patients’ lives.”

“Bringing the doctor and paramedic team to the scene, they can carry out necessary interventions and treatment to stabilise a patient to then transfer on to an appropriate hospital. It will improve their quality of life after injury because we will be there in a very short period of time,” he said.

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Photo: (Northern Ireland Ambulance Service)

In a statement last night, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said “Today is a seminal moment in the history of our pre-hospital care service as the Air Ambulance flew it’s first rescue mission. We are very aware that a young boy is in hospital tonight and we must not lose sight of his situation. Our thoughts and prayers remain with him in the hope that he makes a full and speedy recovery. His chances have been helped greatly by the early expert care provided to him due to the fact that, alongside the ambulance crew which responded by road, the Air Ambulance NI was also tasked to the scene. The HEMS crew have been carrying out training flights, communications checks and other preparatory work ahead of the launch of the service planned for early August”.

NIAS said it is also very thankful for the assistance of the PSNI whose co-operation is always needed when the Air Ambulance NI goes up in terms of the potential to have to close roads etc.

The AANI will operate 12 hours per day, seven days a week during daylight hours and will be based at the Maze/Long Kesh site near Lisburn, while a secondary aircraft will be situated at St Angelo Airport in Enniskillen.

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Pic: AANI Ambulance base at Maze Long Kesh (Air Ambulance Northern Ireland)
Insert illustration: (Emergency Times)

Up to now, Northern Ireland had been without a HEMS and, after years of campaigning by the late Dr John Hinds, the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland service received approval last March. Dr Hinds, a motorsport medic died in 2015.

Campaigners for the service have said it could potentially save between 18 and 50 lives a year.

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