Air Ambulance Northern Ireland marks first year of service
The Air Ambulance Northern Ireland is marking its first anniversary, having been deployed more than 380 times during its first year in operation.
Half of the call-outs were to road crash scenes, while farming accidents accounting for 10% of deployments.
The emergency helicopter service began work on 22 July 2017 and its very first mission was to help an 11-year-old boy who was seriously injured on a farm.
The boy's family and other patients praised the service for saving lives.
The emergency helicopter service is a partnership between the charity Air Ambulance Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS).
Its crew members include 15 doctors and seven paramedics provided by NIAS, and the aircraft can reach any part of Northern Ireland within 25 minutes.
The initiative followed a 12-year campaign of lobbying and fundraising to get the service off the ground.
However, with running costs of £5,500 per day, the charity must raise £2m each year to keep it going.
Its lead clinician, Dr Darren Monaghan, said: "We know that patients are alive today due to the care we provide in conjunction with the whole health service.
"We would like to say a huge thank you to the population of Northern Ireland for their support and donations which allow this lifesaving service to continue."
He added that the team had "been able to reach hundreds of patients be it at the road side, farm yard or even the city centre providing clinical interventions and life-saving medical treatment at the scene and in the air".
The first patient to benefit from the service was 11-year-old Conor McMullan, who sustained a fractured skull in a tractor accident on a farm in Castlewellan, County Down, last summer.
The crew were taking part in training ahead days of the official launch of the service when they were scrambled to attend the emergency.
Conor and his family later met the crew to thank them for the role they played in his recovery.
Speaking ahead of the first anniversary, his father John McMullan said: "We are one year on from a day that could have had a very different outcome had it not been for a service that I, like many others at the time, had no knowledge of and to which I can now say with confidence played a critical role in saving the life of my eldest son Conor.
"Our family and the surrounding community have been left with a shocking reality of how critical this service is to our rural area and to the future wellbeing of our families and we need to do all that we can to ensure it remains."
The crew was also visited by Tom Hadden from Eglish, County Tyrone, who was treated by the air ambulance after a serious crash in November 2017.
"It's been a long and on-going road to recovery," Mr Hadden said.
"I owe great thanks to the Air Ambulance team as without the initial intervention it could have been a very different ending for me."
The boss of Northern Ireland's Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Keith Morrison, has also paid tribute to the work of the Air Ambulance crew.
He met members of the team during Farm Safety Week 2018 and thanked them "their work in saving lives on farms".
"The majority of serious injuries and deaths on our farms are caused by slurry, animals, falls or equipment. When serious incidents happen on farm it is critical that the emergency services get to the scene quickly.
"The invaluable work of the Air Ambulance and our other emergency services saves lives and reduces the impact of the most serious injuries."
The 380 call-outs were recorded between July 2017 and 22 June 2018.