Air ambulance's debut as boy (11) saved
Northern Ireland's long-fought-for air ambulance was called into action to save a young boy's life, days before it was due to officially take to the skies.
The team on board were able to fly the 11-year-old - who had been critically injured in a farm accident involving a tractor in Castlewellan, Co Down - to Belfast in just eight minutes on Saturday.
The 30-mile journey would have taken nearly an hour to travel by road.
Emergency services received the call at around 1.45pm on Saturday while the air ambulance team were working through final preparations for the service's launch.
Because of the seriousness of the child's injuries, the decision was taken to deploy the helicopter on its first ever callout.
It airlifted the boy to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, where his condition was stabilised.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said the boy's chances had been "helped greatly" by the air ambulance.
He added: "We are very aware that a young boy is in hospital tonight and we must not lose sight of his situation. Our thoughts and prayers remain with him in the hope that he makes a full and speedy recovery.
"His chances have been helped greatly by the early expert care provided to him due to the fact that, alongside the ambulance crew which responded by road, the Air Ambulance NI (AANI) was also tasked to the scene."
He said the crew had been preparing for the launch of the service in August when the call came through to air desk paramedics, Phil Hay and Mike Patton.
"In the interests of patient safety, and without hesitation, the crew of Dr Darren Monaghan (clinical lead), paramedic Glenn O'Rorke (operational lead) and pilot Dave O'Toole took to the air and arrived at the scene in approximately seven minutes.
"They worked alongside the NIAS crews delivering emergency care to the young boy and made the decision that, due to the time critical nature of the incident, he should be airlifted to Belfast.
"The journey time back to Belfast was in the region of eight minutes and much faster than could have been achieved by road.
"This is a truly historic day and while we think of everyone who is part of the team, we cannot but help let our thoughts drift to the late Dr John Hinds", he said, referring to the motorcycling doctor who campaigned for an air ambulance before his death.