Girl, 12, reunited with life savers
A schoolgirl who almost died in a freak bicycle accident has been reunited with the paramedics and police officers whose quick actions saved her life.
Alanna Casement ripped an artery when she landed on top of the bike and the handlebar gouged into her leg.
The 12-year-old suffered massive blood loss in the aftermath of the crash on a wooded trail in Castlewellan Forest Park in Co Down, Northern Ireland, last July.
Without the response of her friend's father Raymond Rice, local police officers, paramedics and the crew of a police helicopter who flew her to hospital, doctors believe Alanna may not have survived.
One year on, the schoolgirl said thanks to all those involved at a special event in Belfast to acknowledge the efforts of those who gave first aid.
The pupil at Assumption Grammar School, Ballynahinch, also got to take another trip in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) helicopter - though in much happier circumstances.
"It's just really a huge thank you to every single one of them who participated in me being here today," she said.
"I can't really thank them enough for it. They helped me be here today."
Mr Rice said he still had nightmares about the sight he encountered when he rushed to the crash scene.
"There was blood everywhere, I grabbed my hands around her leg and held as tight as I could until the paramedics came along," he said.
"Things didn't look too good then but fortunately today she's here to tell the tale and we are all glad it has turned out the way it has."
Rapid response paramedic Brian Lynn said it was one of the worst injuries he had ever seen sustained by a child.
"From experience it was very bad," he said. "Alanna was very sick, it was probably the worst wound I have seen on a child of that age in 30 years' experience, dealing with traumas through the Troubles and stuff like that - it was quite a bad, serious wound."
Mr Lynn recalled an emotional exchange he and Alanna shared as they flew in the PSNI helicopter to hospital in Belfast.
"At one point she just turned up and looked at me and said was she going to die, and I said 'not today'," he said.
Rowan Moore, a detective chief inspector in the PSNI's air support unit, highlighted the importance of being able to transport a patient by air.
"It was very important to get Alanna to hospital as quickly as possible and I believe whilst the helicopter took approximately 10 minutes to transport Alanna to hospital the same journey by road would have taken 45 minutes - that 35 minutes has made the difference," he said.
"Everyone saw that big beaming smile today, it makes it all worthwhile. We are charged with keeping people safe and we are delighted to be able to have contributed to keeping Alanna safe in some minor way, in conjunction with colleagues from the ambulance service, district policing and members of the public on the ground."
Alanna's mother Colette said her daughter had travelled a "long road" to recovery.
"She was in hospital for three weeks and left hospital in a wheelchair, we didn't know if she would ever walk again but now thankfully she is back on her feet after a lot of hard work and determination," she said.
Mrs Casement hailed all those who had helped on the day of the accident, July 19.
"It's great to be here, we wouldn't have expected for anybody to put this day on for Alanna but it's absolutely wonderful," she said.
"It brings back memories of course but hopefully this day will be the memory that lasts in Alanna's memory and not the memories of July 19 last year.
"It's given her the chance to say thank you because she never got that chance to say thank you."