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Guard of honour for paramedic Mickey Hughes instructor loved by his students

By Allan Preston

Paramedics from the last class taught by training officer Mickey Hughes will form a guard of honour today at his funeral in Crumlin.

Mr Hughes (60) became a firm favourite with new recruits after finding his niche as a Northern Ireland Ambulance Service instructor in 2007, having previously served as a paramedic for 10 years.

He passed away in a London hospital surrounded by his family on September 19. His health had deteriorated after a pneumonia diagnosis in April.

A family notice described him as "the beloved husband of Angela, devoted father of Rita and stepfather to Patrick and the late Ciaran".

Yesterday his close friend and fellow paramedic Tommy McAuley (58) told the Belfast Telegraph Mr Hughes had been loved by his students.

"There'll never be another Mickey," he said. "A 12-hour shift with him was the best of craic mixed with the best of treatment. There was nothing that would have stood in Mickey's way.

"People could be in the greatest of despair and he could have them laughing."

He recalled once avoiding serious injury thanks to Mr Hughes' cool head. "We were both en route to a call in Ligoniel. We didn't realise it was a civil disturbance until we turned the corner and started being attacked in the ambulance," he explained.

"He had the quick wit to lock the doors right away and pick up the microphone to warn others.

"It was too late for one of our colleagues, who sustained a serious head injury, but it stopped others getting hurt."

After becoming a trainer, Mr McAuley said he established a reputation as an exceptional teacher.

"He loved his students; he would say: 'Tommy, they're unbelievable. Young brains are sitting in front of me and they're like sponges'," he said.

"He definitely found his niche as a trainer. My own training was horrendous and I feared going to the school.

"But Mickey turned it around, he made people want to go to courses. He made training a happy environment, that's exactly what it was.

"He would tell people: 'Listen, I'll get you through it'. He would then ask other paramedics to keep an eye on his students. He was unbelievable."

Recalling his last visit to Mr Hughes' bedside in London, he said: "A friend of mine and I didn't even talk to each other afterwards, we just knew he wasn't well. We sat beside him for about an hour.

"If you go on Facebook, you can see from the tributes he was loved as a colleague, not just liked.

"I've had a lot of problems in my own life over the years. He was a rock to me and I could have called him 24/7 about any concerns. That's how close we were."

He added: "Mickey Hughes rose to the top, but he remembered the ground troops and everybody loved him. His last class, he told me: 'I can't believe how good they are'. So we're getting them to do the guard of honour."

The funeral service begins today at Mr Hughes' home in Laurelvale, Crumlin, at 9am followed by a Requiem Mass at 10am in Crumlin's Mater Dei Church, before proceeding to Crumlin Cemetery.

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