Air Ambulance NI: Charity attends farming incident on average once every week

Around 10 per cent of Air Ambulance NI call outs are to a farm or other agricultural related incident – that is, on average, once every week.
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Working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, the charity provides the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service for Northern Ireland.

The service brings urgent medical assistance to anywhere in the province, operating seven days a week for 12 hours per day.

It can reach anywhere in Northern Ireland in approximately 25 minutes.

David Thompson and his family.David Thompson and his family.
David Thompson and his family.

The HEMS team attend patients who are seriously ill or injured, bringing emergency pre-hospital care direct to the casualty, with the aim of saving lives, brains and limbs.

David Thompson, from Bready, Strabane, was one such patient who benefitted from the quick arrival of the HEMS team who flew to his aid two years ago.

In April 2019, David was working on the newly acquired family farm at Sion Mills.

“I was in the barn alone, up a ladder cutting the strings on a large bale of straw when I fell 14 feet to the ground,” he explained.

George Haslett was overcome by slurry fumes and required the Air Ambulance.George Haslett was overcome by slurry fumes and required the Air Ambulance.
George Haslett was overcome by slurry fumes and required the Air Ambulance.

During the fall, David hit a crate at the side of the bales, banging his head on the way down.

Due to his extensive head injury, the air ambulance HEMS team put him into a medically induced coma.

He spent five weeks in hospital and, whilst the accident has had a life-changing impact, he has made a remarkable recovery.

In June 2018, George Haslett from Claudy was mixing slurry.

Whilst he was turning the pump, he remembered he had four pet lambs with him and he went to get them out.

But, George was overcome by slurry fumes.

Thankfully he wasn’t alone and his helper, Thomas, quickly raised the alarm.

The Air Ambulance HEMS team got a pulse back for George and he required a medically induced coma at the scene.

George’s wife, Ashley, told the charity: “If you hadn’t come that day, George wouldn’t have been anaesthetised and the outcome would have been so different.”

Barclay Bell, a farmer and trustee of Air Ambulance NI, described agriculture as one of Northern Ireland’s most important industries, with over 25,000 farm businesses.

He commented: “Given the significance of this sector, it is not surprising that there is extensive need from farming and rural areas for the services of Air Ambulance.”

Glenn O’Rorke, operational lead for the service, explained: “The HEMS team is tasked to a farm or agricultural related incident, on average, once every week.

“It represents, on average, up to 10 per cent of the service’s call outs, including incidents relating to farm machinery, falls from height on farms, slurry, and cattle.

“On top of that are road traffic collisions relating to farm transport, such as tractors and quads.

“Because farming and agricultural accidents have the propensity to be serious in nature, our medical team triage appropriately.”

If a serious accident does happen, you shouldn’t hesitate to call 999.

The HEMS team can get to anywhere in Northern Ireland in up to 25 minutes.

It is helpful for the pilot on approach if you can identify the farm location – a couple of family members in high vis jackets signalling, or a tractor parked in the middle of the field with the beacon on.

The charity needs to raise £2million each year in order to maintain this service, which is vital for rural areas especially.

Public donations are crucial, however, fundraising has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kerry Anderson, head of fundraising, stated: “Throughout the difficult 18 months of the health pandemic the Air Ambulance, much like farming, has not stopped.

“That means our fundraising has had to continue as well, albeit in new ways.

“Thankfully, rural communities here are extremely close knit, see the value in the Air Ambulance and have continued to support.

“There’s lots of ways to keep the team flying as we approach the festive season, including our Christmas competition which is just £5 per entry and includes a £500 prize voucher for Rushmere Shopping Centre, or becoming a member of Club AANI, showing your support through a monthly donation.”

Kerry continued: “It takes continued support to ensure the Air Ambulance service is there today and for all of our tomorrows, but if everyone does a little it is easy to sustain.”

The charity is encouraging all those who can to join the charity as a Club AANI member, paying a monthly donation by direct debit.

Members collectively fund two days of the service each month and come together in an annual barbecue, as well as receiving information ahead of the public through a monthly email.

You can be part of the club by signing up online at
You can find out more about the charity by emailing [email protected] or calling 028 9262 2677.