A young boy who was badly injured in a farming accident has been reunited with the heroes who came to save him as Northern Ireland’s first air ambulance is officially launched.
Eleven-year-old Conor McMullan sustained serious head injuries after being involved in a tractor accident in Castlewellan on July 22.
The air ambulance was scrambled from training to take him to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
On Wednesday, at the official launch of the service at its base within the Maze site outside Lisburn, Conor and his family met with the air ambulance crew who came to his aid.
His father John McMullan said he witnessed first hand how the air ambulance is such a vital service for the region.
He said: “We are a farming community and it was a typical Saturday with everyone farming. The kids were enjoying themselves when Conor was hit by a piece of machinery and sustained a very bad head injury and fracture.
“Where we are is very rural and the roads are very poor but thanks to the air ambulance we were able to get him into hospital and treated within minutes.
“It was very traumatic for us but it was very settling to know the air ambulance was there and he was going to get the care he needed within minutes.
“It really put me at ease and so did the professionalism of the team. It really is a vital service. Conor is going to make a full recovery.”
Within minutes of its official launch the air ambulance was dispatched to an emergency call.
Conor said: “I can’t remember being in the helicopter so it was really brilliant to see it today, especially flying.”
The creation of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) follows a 12-year campaign with Northern Ireland previously being the only area in the UK without an air ambulance service.
The helicopter is able to reach any part of Northern Ireland within 25 minutes and operates with a doctor and paramedic on board.
The air ambulance has already attended a number of incidents during preparatory and training periods over the last few weeks.
“Our first casualty, Conor, was taken to Belfast in an eight-minute flight that would probably have taken between 50 and 60 minutes by road,” said Air Ambulance Northern Ireland’s Patrick Minne.
“I can’t tell you the amount of time it will save in terms of getting a doctor to treat a casualty on site.”