Air Ambulance Service launches in NI after 12-year campaign

Eleven-year-old Conor McMullan pictured beside one of the air ambulance helicopters with (left to right) air doctor Darren Monaghan, paramedic Glenn O'Rourke and pilot David O'Toole . Conor, from Castlewellan, was the first people to use the air ambulance after he was involved in an accident and the helicopter was diverted from a training exercise. Pic by Jonathan Porter, PressEye
Eleven-year-old Conor McMullan pictured beside one of the air ambulance helicopters with (left to right) air doctor Darren Monaghan, paramedic Glenn O'Rourke and pilot David O'Toole . Conor, from Castlewellan, was the first people to use the air ambulance after he was involved in an accident and the helicopter was diverted from a training exercise. Pic by Jonathan Porter, PressEye

Emergency paramedics will be able to reach any part of Northern Ireland within 25 minutes now an air ambulance has been introduced.

The new helicopter service will be based at the Maze/Long Kesh near Lisburn and will be of most benefit to those whose lives are at serious risk following significant injury or trauma.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and party colleague Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP pictured at the launch event with Chief Executive of the Air Ambulance, Patrick Minne. Pic by Jonathan Porter, PressEye

DUP leader Arlene Foster and party colleague Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP pictured at the launch event with Chief Executive of the Air Ambulance, Patrick Minne. Pic by Jonathan Porter, PressEye

Last month it was called out following a tractor accident involving a boy, 11, in Castlewellan, Co Down.

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service chief executive Shane Devlin said: “The introduction of HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) to our response model is a really positive advance in pre-hospital care throughout the region.

“The advanced medical interventions which can be delivered by our doctors and paramedics in the HEMS team at incidents where life may be ebbing away will further improve survival rates and help to ensure better patient outcomes.”

The campaign to create an air ambulance service has spanned many years.

It was a passion of race medic Dr John Hinds - who died aged 35 on July 4 2015, after a motorbike accident.

Wednesday’s launch is the culmination of a 12-year campaign backed by members of the public.

A total of £2 million a year will need to be raised to sustain the helicopter operations.

The air ambulance will be based at the Maze/Long Kesh, with a backup helicopter stationed at St Angelo Airport, Enniskillen.

The German-made EC135 aircraft have been selected as the most suitable for the operating environment in Northern Ireland.

They will be staffed on a rota basis from six full-time paramedics, a team of 15 doctors and two pilots.

While the service was still undergoing testing a helicopter was called to help the boy hurt in Castlewellan.

He was flown to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

The air ambulance has attended a number of other incidents over recent weeks.