Monday 19 February 2018

Ambulance driver suffered 'survivor's guilt' after incident

Paramedic PJ Cahill attending court. Photo: Courtpix
Paramedic PJ Cahill attending court. Photo: Courtpix

Tim Healy

A paramedic who saw a colleague die after he fell out of a moving ambulance told the High Court he suffered "survivor's guilt" after the incident.

PJ Cahill (50) said: "I felt it was a never-ending thing. I was on a merry-go-round I could not get off."

Mr Cahill is suing for nervous shock as a result of witnessing the accident as he drove an ambulance, with a patient in it, from Cavan to Dublin on June 3, 2010. His friend and colleague, Simon Sexton (43), a father of six, lost his life when he fell through an allegedly defective side door of the ambulance.

"All I know is it should never have happened," Mr Cahill said. "You are working for a caring professional service and end up falling out of an ambulance dying on the side of the road."

He said "the survivor's guilt will always be there - I don't know if it will ever disappear."

Mr Cahill, from Stradone, Co Cavan, has sued his employers, the HSE, and the German manufacturer of the ambulance, Wietmarscher Ambulanz Und Sonderf Ahrzeug GMBH.

He has claimed an ambulance was supplied which permitted the side door to open against the direction of travel. There is also an alleged failure to ensure a motion lock was fitted to the door to ensure it could not be opened while the ambulance was in motion. The claims are denied.

Mr Cahill told how at Mr Sexton's funeral the then CEO of the HSE, Brendan Drumm, sympathised with him.

"We had a chat and afterwards we shook hands and he said you have my number and if there is anything you ever want. He said 'don't ever be at a loss after this'."

Mr Sexton's widow Catherine also put her arms around him and said it was not his fault.

Mr Cahill broke down in the witness box as he told how two years later, after he had used up his entitlement of sick days after the accident, he was off sick for a day with a cold and docked a day's pay.

When it would not be reimbursed he went to a solicitor.

Mr Cahill said the alternative work he was offered was in an ambulance control room which would be high pressure dealing with members of the public ringing in.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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