I owe my life to the air ambulance crew, says Northern Ireland quad crash survivor
A Co Londonderry man who was seriously injured in a motocross accident has met rescuers who helped save his life.
Eoghan Kerlin was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast after the crash last September.
The 28-year-old and his wife Kerrie met with members of the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) at its base in Lisburn as part of his ongoing recovery.
Mr Kerlin, who is from Dungiven, sustained serious injuries including a shattered femur and open fractures to his leg and knee during the motocross event in Cookstown, Co Tyrone.
The accident happened when his quad collided with another competitor at speed.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Mr Kerlin said that he has no recollection of the crash or his lifesaving flight to the RVH where surgeons battled for six hours to piece him together again.
His wife, who witnessed the crash from the sidelines, rang 999 and spoke to the dispatcher, who realised Mr Kerlin was badly injured and required immediate pre-hospital critical care treatment.
The road ambulance was deployed and arrived shortly before the air ambulance, but Mr Kerlin took a seizure and had to be sedated at the scene before being transferred by the air ambulance to Belfast.
Mr Kerlin said: "I'm still undergoing treatment for my injuries and will have to have surgery on my kneecap which has unfortunately been damaged beyond repair.
"But I'm here, and I'm on the road to recovery and every week there is further improvement.
"I owe a great deal to all of the medical professionals who helped and continue to help me, and I'm feeling positive about the future.
"Every week, if not every day, someone somewhere will need the air ambulance and I certainly owe my life to them."
"I don't remember anything about the crash and very little about waking up in the Royal Victoria after the surgeons had operated for six hours."
He is now on the road to recovery and, as a measure of their gratitude, the family embarked on a fundraising event which netted an impressive £2,400.
That will help with the £5,000-plus daily cost to keep the important service in Northern Ireland.
Mr Kerlin added: "We were only too grateful to be able to raise some funds for Air Ambulance but it doesn't cost a lot to have this important service here so I would definitely encourage people to help keep it going.
"I certainly didn't set out that morning in September thinking I would have a crash and need to be airlifted to hospital, but I did and it is the same for everyone - no one knows what will happen to them, but having the air ambulance gives people the best chance if things do go wrong."
Mrs Kerlin, who accompanied her husband to the AANI base, said witnessing the crash was a moment that she will never forget.
She said: "Standing on the sidelines and watching the accident was one of the worst moments I've ever experienced. I really thought Eoghan was going to die.
"Eoghan had a seizure at the scene which was incredibly frightening, but when I saw the air ambulance coming into land my anxiety reduced.
"Within minutes of the HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) team arriving, all the craziness seemed to calm, and I just felt so much more at ease as the team were so professional."
AANI, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, provides the HEMS for the region and respond to seriously ill or injured patients seven days a week, for 12 hours a day.
AANI requires £5,500 per day to keep this vital service going, meaning £2m must be raised each year.
Mrs Kerlin said it is vital the air ambulance service gets more support. She said: "As a family, we know just how important the air ambulance service is and in recognition of this, we held a fundraiser in November last year and raised £2,400 for the charity.
"We wanted to extend a heartfelt thanks to every single person who contributed in any way to help.
"We are forever grateful for what AANI has done for us and couldn't imagine what the outcome may have been if they were not available."
For details on how to support AANI visit www.airambulanceni.org or telephone 028 9262 2677.