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Air ambulance will be legacy of road racing

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 19/07/2016

Dr John Hinds
Dr John Hinds

Motorcyclist Ryan Farquhar is right - he is lucky to be alive. He wouldn't be if it was not for the skill of the medical team who treated him at the roadside after his crash at the North West 200 in May and he would still have died if he had not been airlifted by police helicopter to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in a trip lasting just nine minutes.

So why would he ever contemplate going back to road racing? He refuses to rule out ever riding again, or at least running a team. It shows the tremendous allure of the sport to those who compete in it.

Many of us cannot understand what possesses riders to race along roads at speeds which can approach 200mph. The vast majority of us would not have the courage or skill to ride a bike like that.

Those who criticise the sport have to realise that it is a personal choice for riders to take part. They are not stupid or naive. They know the next race could be their last. But that is a risk they willingly take.

And it is a risk that their loved ones share. Consider Ryan's wife, who has been travelling from their home in Tyrone twice a day to see her husband in hospital in Belfast and who will have to be constantly at his side as he recuperates for at least the next year. She has to run the house, look after the children and keep the home going.

Little wonder Ryan is in awe of her and deeply indebted to her. He may have suffered the injuries, but she and their children bear the consequences.

But as Ryan says, he is still lucky. This year at the North West 200 young promising rider Malachi Mitchell-Thomas died in a crash near the same spot as Ryan. A life of hope was snuffed out in an instant, a promise of greatness never given a chance to flourish. But racing was his choice and no one could deter him from it.

What they and the rest of us can do is continue to improve safety standards and treatment of injured riders. In that respect we welcome the fact that Northern Ireland is to get its own air ambulance - thanks in large part to the publicity given to the need for that service by brilliant medic Dr John Hinds, who lost his life on a motorcycle circuit, and friend Dr Fred McSorley.

Motorcycle racing is dangerous, but so are a host of other sports, or even driving on the roads. The air ambulance will ensure that those whose life depends on it will get to hospital as quickly as possible and, like Ryan, be given another chance at life. We can thank motorcycling for that.

Belfast Telegraph

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