A heartbroken son has told how he lay on the road beside his dying mother as they waited nearly an hour for an ambulance after a road accident.
Brendan Porter (41) said he has yet to be told why it took 50 minutes for a crew to reach his mother Maura, who was knocked down in Carndonagh, Co Donegal, while returning from church.
The 70-year-old was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry – more than 30 minutes from the scene – but died hours after the accident on December 30.
It was around 90 minutes before Mrs Porter, who was buried in Carndonagh on Friday, was admitted to hospital.
The HSE confirmed that an ambulance based in Inishowen had been dispatched to deal with another incident. The crew that handled retired ESB worker Mrs Porter was sent from Letterkenny, 64km away.
"We will never know what would have happened had the ambulance arrived earlier, but my mother could still be alive if it had come sooner," said civil engineer Mr Porter. "Valuable time was wasted – time that could have given surgeons an opportunity that may have saved her life."
Mr Porter, his sister Davina and father Neil, a retired fireman, stayed at the scene near their home waiting for the ambulance to arrive as heavy rain fell.
Three doctors and two nurses attended but could not help Mrs Porter as she required treatment by surgeons.
"I lay with mum comforting and praying with her to reassure her," said her son. "We knew she was in a bad way. All I could think of was why the ambulance wasn't coming quicker.
"I am speaking out because I don't want this to happen to another family.
"She didn't get what she was legally entitled to – an ambulance within a reasonable time limit. There is a duty of care from the HSE.
"There have been cutbacks at the Carndonagh ambulance station, and that evening just one crew was available and it was at another incident.
"No family in this country should have to go through what we are going through."
A woman who helped out at the scene told how her husband re-directed traffic after Mrs Porter was knocked down until gardai arrived 40 minutes later.
"What happened at the scene was the most agonising and cruel thing I've ever witnessed in my life," said Colleen Kearney.
"Lay people at the scene and off-duty doctors did their utmost to help in the best way that they could, and to give Mrs Porter the best support that they could.
"However, the prompt response of emergency medical care, which was paramount, did not come when needed most.
"The people assisting were crying in sheer desperation as time went on. Every minute seemed like an hour.
"I hope that all relevant authorities take note of this situation and vow to ensure that this never happens to anyone ever again."
The HSE admitted that it took 90 minutes from the crash until Mrs Porter was admitted to hospital.
As she died in a hospital in the North, an inquest into her death will be held there.
Her son said he would fight for improved ambulance services in the area.
"I will dedicate all my efforts to ensure the provision of an adequate response time for ambulances in Inishowen and in Donegal as a positive act to remember my mother," he added. "I don't want another person to suffer the same way."