Tuesday 20 March 2018

The 999 calls that never made news - but luckily were answered by 'snow angels'

Pictured at Kilbraney, Co. Wexford with tractors even finding the going tough. Picture: Patrick Browne
Pictured at Kilbraney, Co. Wexford with tractors even finding the going tough. Picture: Patrick Browne
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

They are the call-outs we never read about, hear about or even talk about.

As the storm raged and snow paralysed the country, there was a cohort of emergency responders who refused to freeze.

It has become almost clichéd to praise the health staff, the ESB crews and the local authority workers who literally ploughed their way through the snowdrifts.

Videos have emerged of hospital staff outdoors to allow young patients to build mini-snowmen. Farmers have volunteered to dig out mounds of ice, communities have pushed ambulances up hills and fire crews have stayed on call 24 hours.

But there was much more that will never be known about.

The Irish Independent has seen logged reports of calls made to An Garda Síochána in recent days and operations undertaken by the Civil Defence.

They tell stories of elderly people who found themselves cold and alone as the 'Beast from the East' left a trail of destruction.

On one level heart-breaking, and on another heart-warming, as gardaí went out of their way to at least reassure people even if there was little else that could be done.

It was in the early hours of Sunday morning when gardaí received a call in Wexford town.

An elderly man who lived on his own couldn't get back into his bed. Officers were dispatched to help him.

Another request for help came from a man who hadn't heard from his brother all day "and this was unusual".

The report states: "Gardaí called to carry out a welfare check on male, all OK, male is elderly and bed-bound, had home help in twice daily. All OK. Brother informed."

In Rosslare, another older lady contacted gardaí because her heating was not working. It was discovered that, in fact, she had no electricity.

Elsewhere in rural Wexford, a woman raised fears for her father who was a number of days without electricity.

"Contact eventually made with the caller and arrangement made through Civil Defence for the transporting of man's carer to his house to administer medication and ensure his welfare," the Garda notes say.

All are basic calls but very necessary under the circumstances, senior gardaí told the Irish Independent.

"They all took time, but for the people affected it matters," an officer said.

The Civil Defence played a key role too. It had 3,500 volunteers on the ground doing everything from clearing Luas tracks to transporting countless dialysis patients. At one point, they moved bone marrow from Belfast Airport to St James's Hospital.

Some 21 four-wheel drive vehicles were on the road in Dublin, six in Kildare, five each in Carlow and Wicklow.

A logbook from Kilkenny includes entries such as "delivered soup from a hotel to a homeless shelter".

In Cork city volunteers delivered 50 blankets following a request from the local airport.

The county-by-county breakdown continues:

Kerry - Transported five essential staff to Tarbert Power Plant.

Tipperary - Recovered stranded hillwalker on Keeper Hill, treated him and transferred him to HSE ambulance.

Clare - Agreed to clear footpaths for Mass-goers before Saturday evening Mass.

Monaghan - Provided camp beds to Fire Service.

Sligo - Moved a patient from her home to a nursing home.

Galway - Assisted paramedic crews that got into difficulty on isolated roads.

Cavan - Delivered peg-food to homebound patients.

And the list goes on and on through every county.

Snow angels, whose stories will never be fully known.

Irish Independent

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