Defibrillators to be installed in community centres after death of east Belfast man
Life-saving defibrillators are set to be installed at community centres across the Belfast City Council area.
Councillors recently voted unanimously to extend their provision beyond public parks and playing fields following the tragic and sudden death of an elderly man on council property.
East Belfast native Jimmy Magee (74), chairman of Dee Street Community Centre, had a massive heart attack on November 22 last year and died inside the building.
There was no defibrillator on site and although someone ran to the nearby Harland and Wolff Welders Football and Social Club to fetch one, unfortunately it was too late for Jimmy.
His best friend Ian McClean, who's also from the east of the city, said he hoped the plan to roll out defibrillators will help save other people's lives.
Ian, who said the popular father-of-two passed away just a fortnight before his 75th birthday, added that Jimmy had turned up to attend a cultural history class prior to falling ill.
"That particular Wednesday, Jimmy popped his head into the room to say hello and told the others he'd be with them in a minute," Mr McClean said.
"He was just popping to the bathroom but unfortunately that's when he had a massive heart attack.
"A couple of the reception staff from Dee Street went looking for him when he didn't come back to the class and that's when they found him and raised the alarm." Mr McClean said Jimmy had been having some health problems prior to that and had been on dialysis for five months at the time of his death, adding that his condition meant he "had good days and bad days".
"I had spoken to him the previous day and he was in grand form," Mr McClean recalled.
"He told me he wouldn't see me until Thursday because he had a class to go to on Wednesday morning and then dialysis that afternoon. But then I got a call that Wednesday morning around 11.30 telling me to get to the centre because something had happened to Jimmy."
By the time Mr McClean got there 15 minutes later, the police and ambulance were already in attendance and he was told it was too late.
"That's how I learned the unfortunate circumstances of his death, there was no defibrillator," the 54-year-old said.
"The staff were really shaken up by what had happened... and then there was the maelstrom of trying to contact his relatives.
"It was very tough on everyone."
Welcoming the proposal to put defibrillators in council-run premises, Mr McClean said it was a fitting legacy for grandfather-of-two Jimmy.
Deputy Lord Mayor Sonia Copeland, who proposed the move, said all leisure services within the Belfast City Council area should have defibrillators.
"We all agreed that it's common sense, particularly when you have people doing keep fit and other activities," she said.
"I'm not saying that if there had been one in Dee Street Community Centre that it would've saved Jimmy's life, but all centres should have defibrillators."
A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said a public access defibrillator programme is being rolled out, adding that in December the People and Communities Committee agreed to "assess the potential of extending defibrillator provision to other council assets".