Elderly patient dead, two crew members hospitalised after ambulance catches fire outside hospital
* Male patient dead
* Ambulance workers hospitalised
* A&E temporarily closed
* Full investigation underway
* Witnesses share accounts
A MAN has died and two ambulance workers were hospitalised after an ambulance went on fire outside the A&E department of Naas General Hospital this afternoon.
The cause of the fire is not known but it has been confirmed that the patient in the ambulance at the time died. The man, from Kildare, is believed to have been in his late 70s.
Sources at the hospital have said that a male patient in the ambulance was killed and two ambulance crew, aged in their thirties and their forties, were injured in what was described as "an explosion in the back of the ambulance".
It is understood one of the ambulance crew received severe burns to the head, face, torso and upper limbs after he was blown back in the explosion.
He has been transferred to the specialist burns unit in St James's Hospital in Dublin. Director General of the HSE said they are hopeful the gentleman will make a full recovery.
The second ambulance crew member received more minor injuries, including smoke inhalation while trying to assist at the scene.
A spokesperson for Kildare Fire Service told Independent.ie both Naas and Newbridge Fire Stations responded to the emergency call on Thursday afternoon.
Four units attended the scene.
The emergency call was received at 13.33 and the first unit arrived at the scene at 13.37.
Chair of National Ambulance Service Representative Association Michael Dixon paid tribute to the workers this evening.
Fire at Naas hospital right now pic.twitter.com/xHcww785FK— Kevin Killick (@queev) September 22, 2016
Awful to here what has happened in Kildare today, thoughts and prayers to everyone— Fred Sharkey (@FredSharkey) September 22, 2016
“First of all our thoughts and prayers are with the gentleman who lost his life in the back of the ambulance and also the crew members from the National Ambulance Service who were injured," he told Kildare FM.
“The information we are receiving at the moment is very sketchy.
“At the moment there are a lot of concerned paramedics around the country wondering what went on.
“Every ambulance carries compressed gas in cylinders however this would have to be combusted itself in order to catch fire. The question is was there a leak involved or was there a third party involved.
“We have to let the investigation run its course," he continued.
“We had some incidents years ago with new vehicles that they went on fire as there was issues with the engines but the manufacturers resolved that very quickly.”
Health Minister Simon Harris said: "Like all of us, I was numb when I heard about this terrible tragedy.
"I visited the hospital this evening to extend my sympathies to the family on the death of their loved one.
"I also wanted to support the incredible efforts of the staff in Naas General Hospital on what was an extremely difficult and upsetting day and to convey my hope of a full recovery to the injured paramedic staff.
"The Director General of the HSE has briefed me on the situation and informed me that a number of investigations with now take place."
"My thoughts and prayers remain with the family of the deceased man and with are injured paramedics."
The closure of the emergency department now means that other hospitals including Portlaoise, Tullamore, St Vincent's and Tallaght will be taking any emergencies that would have been destined for Naas.
The HSE issued a statement this afternoon saying they can confirm an incident at the hospital.
They confirmed that the Emergency Department is now temporarily closed.
Witness Nathan Curtis told Independent.ie; ""I was just passing by and seen the smoke and when we pulled in Kildare Fire Services were there trying to put the fire out.
"The whole A&E department was evacuated. I was just hoping nobody was hurt."
Rob Moore said: "I heard a load of alarms going off so I went to see what was going on. The old part of the hospital was being evacuated.
"There was a lot of panic and people were running around."
The National Ambulance Service (NAS) has now implemented "appropriate diversion protocols".
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This means patients are being taken to alternative hospitals.
The NAS has informed both the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and An Garda Siochana and a full investigation is underway into the incident.
Tonight, Naas General Hospital released a statement to say that its Emergency Department reopened at 9pm and is now receiving both walk-in attendances and ambulance admissions.
"The hospital would like to thank the public for their co-operation during the disruption to services at the hospital earlier today."
James Lawless TD for the area said he extends his condolences to family of the deceased.
“I extend my condolences to the family of the person who has passed away," he said.
"It's an horrific thing to happen and my thoughts go out to the family and to the staff who are continuing to deal with the situation."
More to follow