Just two months after taking to the sky, the operators of Ireland's first charity-led air ambulance service have revealed it has already notched up a major milestone after responding to more than 100 missions.
Officially unveiled by Tánaiste Simon Coveney at its Rathcoole Aerodrome base near Millstreet on July 30, the Irish Community Rapid Respond (ICRR) service is already well ahead of it's target to deliver 500 life-saving missions per year.
However, ICRR chairman Fergal Conlon has said that more than €2 million will be needed each year to maintain the service and has called on the corporate sector and the general public to get behind a major fundraising appeal to keep it airborne.
Entitled 'Flight for Life', the appeal will involved a nationwide raffle - with one of the top prizes being a once in a lifetime helicopter trip from Italy to Ireland, allowing the winner to take in the majestic sight of the Alps, on board a new helicopter that is due to be phased into action later this year.
Mr Conlon said that a programme of major public events and community-based fundraisers has been planned for the coming months under the direction of the ICRRs new chief operations officer (COO).
He said the service would also be making contact with large companies and business leaders in a bid to help raise the funds needed to keep it operational.
"I am delighted to announce that Lynda Stopford, who is a vastly experienced fundraiser and charity sector leader has been appointed as our new COO and will lead the fundraising campaign. She will be working with staff, volunteers and a Cork based fundraising consultancy to reach our targets," he said.
The air ambulance, which is staffed by a team of two pilots, five advance paramedics and four emergency medical technicians on a rota basis, provides critical medical care to people within a 10,000sq mile radius of its North Cork base.
It is capable of reaching Dingle within 24-minutes of take-off and Rosslare within 33-minutes and will also be equipped with long-range fuel tanks that will allow it to co-ordinate with the existing Athlone-based Emergency Aeromedical Service for missions across the country if and when required.
The HSE/ National Ambulance Service (NAS) is providing the medical staffing for the aeronautical service, which is tasked centrally through the existing NAS 999/112 call system. Incidents it has responded to since becoming operational have include road traffic collisions, farm accidents and attending to people who have suffered cardiac events and strokes.
"It is a very positive and much needed service which is saving lives and has already come to the aid of more than 100 families in two months," he added.
Mr Conlon also revealed the service has also taken delivery of a support helicopter that will be permanently housed in the hanger at Rathcoole.
"The back-up helicopter came into use last week while the main aircraft was undergoing routine servicing. It will remain at the airbase as a back-up aircraft, as is normal for an Air Ambulance service," he said.
For more information about Irish Community Rapid Respond and its 'Flight For Life' fundraising campaign visit www.icrr.ie.