Stormont receives air ambulance service petition in memory of campaigning doctor
A petition calling for the establishment of a Northern Ireland air ambulance has been presented to Stormont.
More than 70,000 people signed the petition organised by the HEMS4NI campaign after the death of Dr John Hinds in July.
Handing it over to the Assembly, North Antrim MLA Jim Allister called for the Department of Health to fund and equip a new emergency helicopter.
He said: "I trust the department will rise to the challenge and this petition will encourage them to do that in a timely and expeditious manner."
Dr Hinds, who was killed providing medical cover during a practice session for the Skerries 100 road race in Dublin, was nicknamed one of the "flying doctors" of Irish motorcycle racing.
He was a strong advocate using helicopters to speed the injured to hospital and met with Health Minister Simon Hamilton to discuss the possibility of setting up a regional air ambulance.
Online, more than 65,000 people supported the Change.org petition while a further 7,000 signatures were obtained on paper.
Dr Hinds' family and partner Dr Janet Acheson said an air ambulance would be a fitting tribute.
A statement said: " 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.
"There could be no greater legacy to John than saving lives."
Last week Mr Hamilton pledged support for the air ambulance project £200,000 towards the air ambulance project which would form a key part of a new regional trauma network.
But, he said a robust and recurrent charitable funding contribution would have to be obtained because of the difficult financial climate.
Costs for the helicopter emergency medical service (Hems) are estimated at £2.38 million plus a further £1.8 million to run
Assembly Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin said a copy of the petition would be sent to the Department of Health and Stormont's health scrutiny committee.