Belfast Telegraph

Fury as community's lifesaving defibrillator is wrecked by thug

By Lisa Smyth

A lifesaving defibrillator destroyed at the weekend had only been in place for two months after a Londonderry community raised £1,500 to pay for the equipment.

The vandal behind the attack in the city's Waterside was caught on CCTV ripping the defibrillator from the wall outside a shop in Church Meadow before throwing it onto Rossdowney Road in the early hours of yesterday.

Spar store manager Richard Campbell said people are disgusted at the attack and urged anyone with information to go to police. He said they have not ruled out launching another fundraising drive to replace the vital equipment.

"We will move forward and see what we can do," he said.

Defibrillators are used on people suffering from cardiac arrest, which happens when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body.

They work by giving an electric shock through the chest wall.

The majority of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital do not survive, as immediate medical attention is required to restart the heart - but defibrillation within three minutes of collapse can increase the chance of survival to over 70%.

Around 1,400 cardiac arrests occur outside of hospitals every year in Northern Ireland.

Staff at the Church Meadow Spar and members of the public spent 12 months fundraising to gather enough money to pay for a defibrillator to be placed outside the shop. It was part of a province-wide initiative by the Henderson group, which owns Spar, to install more than 300 defibrillators in the community.

Mr Campbell added: "They are such important pieces of equipment and we were really keen that we should have one in the area so it could be used in an emergency. We spent 12 months holding all sorts of events to raise enough money to pay for the defibrillator, we had raffles and bag packs and things like that.

"It was placed at the front of the shop so that everyone could see it, the whole point of it is that people need to know that it's there in case they ever need to use it. It would defeat the purpose to have it around the side or the back where no one can see it.

"We came in to open the shop this morning and could see the casing had been opened and then we found it down the road and it is completely destroyed.

"It's devastating, everyone is so angry, we worked so hard to be able to afford it and then to finally have it in place and for something like this to happen.

"From the CCTV, there was just one person and you can see it in his hands for several moments and then he launched it across the road. We don't know whether we will be able to replace it, we would absolutely want one back, but it's in the hands of the police now and hopefully they catch whoever did this.

"We've had to put up a sign where the defibrillator was saying it's not available due to vandalism. I would hate to think that someone might need it and it isn't there, because defibrillators genuinely save lives."

Police have appealed for anyone who knows anything about the attack to come forward.

Inspector Gregory Smyth said: "This defibrillator was installed for the whole community to use in the case of an emergency and it is very disappointing that someone would want to damage this important piece of lifesaving equipment."

The Henderson defibrillator scheme was launched in autumn last year.

At the time chief medical officer for Northern Ireland Dr Michael McBride said: "The addition of these external, public access defibrillators to our network of lifesavers across Northern Ireland is very welcome."

Belfast Telegraph


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