A female spectator seriously injured following a crash at the North West 200 in May has expressed her regret that she will never have the chance to thank revered ‘flying doctor’ John Hinds.
Portrush woman Violet McAfee was watching the races in the garden of a house on the stretch of road between York Corner and Mill Road Roundabout when the accident occurred.
Three riders – Dean Harrison, Horst Saiger and Stephen Thompson – were involved in the collision and it was Austrian Saiger’s Kawasaki machine that struck Mrs McAfee, leaving her with serious head and leg injuries.
Dr Hinds, who was tragically killed on duty at the Skerries 100 road races near Dublin in July, was one of the first medics on the scene and helped treat Mrs McAfee before she was flown to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in a critical condition.
“Dr John was one of the first people on the scene to treat me,” she said.
“He loved his job and was so passionate about it. He will be very sorely missed and I have a lot to thank him for. I am so sorry that I never got the chance to do that.”
Dr Hinds was a key advocate of the need for an air ambulance service in Northern Ireland and following his untimely death a petition for the HEMS4NI campaign (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) has received more than 64,000 online signatures, with a further 7,000 signing the paper petition at various events across Northern Ireland.
On Thursday, the campaign received a boost with the news that Health Minister Simon Hamilton is committed to setting up a helicopter emergency service and will launch a public consultation later this month.
Popular European racer Horst Saiger travelled to Northern Ireland and met Mrs McAfee on Friday, who said she was ‘overwhelmed’ after a special reception was organised by her work colleagues.
“I am overwhelmed – it is great to meet Horst for the first time and to have him here today,” said the 44-year-old, who is still walking with crutches and wearing a special brace on her injured left leg.
Saiger, who sustained a broken elbow in the incident, added: “The worst thing was not my injuries but when I heard that Violet had been hit by my bike.
“I was very worried but it was one of the best days of my life when I heard that she was going to be okay.”
Mrs McAfee was presented with one of Saiger’s race helmets at the surprise meet and greet.
Bradford rider Dean Harrison escaped unscathed in the crash but Stephen Thompson from Crumlin was badly injured and later had part of his left arm removed as a result of the injuries he received.
“I really want to meet Stephen again,” Violet said.
“I saw him briefly in hospital and I know that he is going through so much.”