Newry gas blast injured taken to hospital by fire crew
Four children and a woman who escaped a gas cooker explosion at their Newry home were taken to hospital by the Fire Service as no ambulance was available at the time, it has emerged.
The incident, which occurred in the Barcroft Park area of the city just before 6.30pm on Monday, saw three boys aged 12, 10 and six, an eight-year-old girl and a 34-year-old woman taken to Daisy Hill Hospital.
Two fire appliances and 11 crew members attended the scene.
It has since been revealed that all five casualties were taken to hospital by the NI Fire & Rescue Service in a fire appliance and a fire officer's car.
Two children have since been discharged.
The other two children, who were transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, remain there in a stable condition.
No update was available on the condition of the woman, who is understood to have been admitted to the Ulster Hospital with a burn to the hand.
All those involved suffered burns to the face, but these were not thought to be "deep-seated" injuries.
It is believed that the incident was caused by a faulty gas appliance.
Chairman of Barcroft Community Association Darren Thompson, who lives opposite the house where the explosion occurred, said that an ambulance had arrived at the scene around an hour after the incident happened.
"I thought it was disgusting that Newry is a so-called city and we couldn't get an ambulance out here at 6.30pm at night," he said.
"They arrived at around 7.30pm, by which time the casualties had already been taken to hospital by the fire brigade, so the ambulance just left.
"Questions must be asked as to why there was no ambulance cover available in the area at the time of this incident - it could have resulted in a loss of life.
"This was a gas explosion - people could have died.
"The community is in shock, when you hear about a gas explosion you always fear the worst, but thankfully no-one was seriously hurt.
"I believe that this family are from the Dundalk area, and I would like to wish them all a speedy recovery.
"The Fire Service deserve the highest praise for their speedy reaction and professionalism."
Newry independent councillor David Hyland described ambulance cover in the Newry area as "hit and miss".
He said that there had been previous occasions on which no ambulance cover was available.
"There are not enough ambulances available for the size of the area," he stated.
"It's a dire situation in terms of ambulance cover, and I am worried that lives are being put at risk.
"If the Barcroft incident had been more serious and there had been a bigger build up of gas we could have been looking at serious injuries.
"I would be calling for an investigation into this incident.
"We shouldn't have to rely on the NIFRS to do the ambulance service's job - they are busy enough with their own work."
A Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said that taking the casualties to hospital was "not a regular occurrence," and that a "judgment call was made at the scene of the incident by the Officer in Charge and a retained firefighter who is also a trained paramedic."
She added that the incident had happened within a mile of Daisy Hill Hospital.
An Ambulance Service spokesperson said that the organisation was gathering information on the incident, and would release a response today.