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Air ambulance could save 'up to 50 lives' each year


One of the two helicopters outside Titanic Belfast in Northern Irelandt.

One of the two helicopters outside Titanic Belfast in Northern Irelandt.

One of the two helicopters outside Titanic Belfast in Northern Irelandt.

Northern Ireland's new air ambulance could save up to 50 lives every year, it was claimed during a public unveiling.

The EC135 Airbus helicopter touched down outside Titanic Belfast before flying to Enniskillen and Portstewart as part of a three-day visit.

It is one of two specially designed aircraft to be permanently based in the region and comes after years of campaigning.

Ian Crowe, chairman of Air Ambulance Northern Ireland charity, (AANI), said: "The service will bring us into line with other regions in the UK and Ireland, and will help save an expected 18 to 50 lives every year.

"The support we've received from the public and local businesses has been fantastic, and this visit is an opportunity to say thank you and encourage others to get involved."

An announcement on when the air ambulance will be operational is expected later this month.

Stormont Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "I hope to be in a position to make a further announcement about the implementation of the service in the coming weeks, once I have fully considered the medical advice regarding the operating model."

Provision of an air ambulance became a reality when former Chancellor George Osborne pledged £4.5 million towards the project earlier this year.

The helicopters will be based at Belfast International Airport at Aldergrove, Co Antrim - where it will be within a 25 minute flight time of any part of Northern Ireland - and will transport patients to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.

The aircraft and pilots will be supplied by Babcock Mission Critical Services while medical staff and equipment will be provided and funded by Health and Social Care services.

Annual costs are estimated at £1.8 million with much of the money being generated through charity fundraising.

Ray Foran, an AANI trustee, said: "These modern twin-engine helicopters were designed specifically with emergency services operations in mind and come fully equipped for HEMS and air ambulance operations.

"The main helicopter will also be equipped with weather radar to maximise its effectiveness."

It was previously agreed the air ambulance would have the call sign "Delta 7", in memory of Dr John Hinds, one of the so-called "flying doctors" of Irish motorcycle racing who campaigned tirelessly for the service before his tragic death last year.