Flying doctor John Hinds' relatives 'humbled' as 83,500 sign air ambulance petition
The partner of air ambulance campaigner Dr John Hinds has spoken of how his family were "humbled" by the 83,500 people who signed a government petition to support his dream.
The petition's organisers have vowed to work on despite Health Minister Simon Hamilton's commitment to establishing the service with the assistance of charitable organisations.
TUV MLA Jim Allister received the petition yesterday at Stormont and said that the Department of Health needed to fund it more than "a mere £200,000 a year".
He said: "The Department should show its bona fides by capital funding the acquisition and equipping of the helicopter."
Top road racer William Dunlop and his Tyco BMW team turned up at Stormont yesterday to show support to the 'flying doctor' who tragically lost his own life after helping to save many racers over the years.
The hospital consultant was one of two doctors who would travel behind riders at high speed to treat a rider should they crash in a race.
He tragically lost his own life when he crashed during a practice session at a race meet in July.
Dr Hinds had been a vocal advocate for Northern Ireland to have its own dedicated air ambulance service.
The emergency medicine specialist had argued that a service was urgently needed to save lives in trauma situations across the province.
Dr Hind's partner, Dr Janet Acheson, issued a statement on behalf of herself and the Hinds family as more than 50 members of the road racing community gathered to support the public petition.
She said: "We welcome the consultation announced last week by the Health Minister Simon Hamilton and the work done by Jim Allister MLA.
"We are humbled by the number of people who have signed the petition organised by HEMS4NI.
"It was John's great wish to see a properly structured HEMS set up in Northern Ireland and we sincerely thank all those people who are working so hard to make his dream a reality."
She added: "There could be no greater legacy to John than saving lives."
William Dunlop, son of legendary racer Robert Dunlop who also lost his life on a practice run when his bike seized in 2008, told the Belfast Telegraph: "I've been fortunate not to have needed Dr John to be there for me as I've not crashed.
"But I just can't get my head around that he won't be there any more.
"He was so much part of racing here. He was always here when he was needed and I know he saved many lives.
The petition was started after Dr Hind's death by John Allen and Stephen Henderson to help honour the doctor's name.
Yesterday they cautiously welcomed Health Minister Simon Hamilton's statement but admitted a lot of discussion and work still needed to be done.
Mr Hamilton said: "It was a fairly broad statement and while it's welcoming news, we still need to know what exactly is required from charities and indeed from government with regards to funding an air ambulance. The air ambulance service needs universal support from all of the various emergency services in Northern Ireland.
"This is to ensure that this service brings Northern Ireland into the 21st century and alongside the services that the rest of the UK take for granted."