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Medical helicopter campaign is gathering momentum

By Deborah McAleese

Published 27/07/2015

Dr John Hinds
Dr John Hinds
Dr Fred McSorley stands in front of the memorial for his friend and colleague Dr John Hinds during the Armoy races

Pressure is growing for an emergency medical helicopter after the Irish Coastguard had to provide an air ambulance to help seriously injured motorcyclist Ian Simpson.

Mr Simpson was airlifted to Belfast and taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital after he was involved in a crash while competing in the Armoy Road Races on Saturday.

Luckily the Irish Coastguard Air Ambulance was on a training exercise with Belfast Coastguard at the time and was able to divert quickly to the crash site.

The collision, just weeks after Dr John Hinds died after a motorcycle crash while providing medical cover at a road racing meeting in Co Dublin, has heaped pressure on the health minister to address calls for an air ambulance here. Dr Hinds had been campaigning for an air ambulance when he died.

Two women who both lost loved ones during road races last night said an air ambulance was "not a luxury, but a necessity".

Sheila Stinton, whose son Eddie was killed in the Carrowdore 100 in 2000, said the death of Dr Hinds and news of Mr Simpson's crash had brought back terrible memories of losing her son.

Sheila was on medical duty at the crash point on the day her son died and was first on the scene to treat him. She accompanied him to the Ulster Hospital in Belfast but 35-year-old Eddie was declared dead on arrival.

"There was no air ambulance available for Eddie. It would save valuable time getting someone to hospital. We need to get this for John [Dr Hinds]. It is not only for the riders but for everyone across Northern Ireland," said Sheila, a member of the Injured Riders Welfare Fund.

Yvonne Ward, whose husband Steve was killed at a race at Anderstorp in Sweden almost 20 years ago, said that the quicker an injured person gets to hospital for treatment, the better their chance of pulling through.

"When someone has had an accident, that first hour getting them to hospital is really critical. With an air ambulance you could get someone to hospital within minutes. It is a necessity, not a luxury," said Yvonne, who is also a member of the Injured Riders Welfare Fund. Belfast Coastguard said it received a report from Northern Ireland Ambulance Service just before 4.30pm on Saturday of a motorcycle crash in Armoy and that the injured rider needed transport to hospital via helicopter.

"We tasked Irish Coastguard rescue helicopter 116, which was in the area. Ballycastle and Bangor Coastguard Rescue Teams were tasked to secure the landing sites and assist where needed," a spokesman added.

Dr Hinds' fellow 'flying doctor' at motorcycle road races was Lurgan GP Dr Fred McSorley, who was back on duty in Armoy.

He told the Belfast Telegraph last week his close friend would have become the clinical director of the NI Helicopter Service had he lived.

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