Fundraiser Liam is first to use air ambulance

Concubhar Ó Liatháín

Just a month in the air but the Air Ambulance service at Rathcool Aerodrome outside Millstreet has already undertaken over 50 lifesaving missions across Kerry and Cork by the time it came to officially launching the service on Monday.

And while the opening was performed by Tánaiste Simon Coveney TD and attended by a panoply of ministers, TDs and county councillors, the real guest of honour was local Rathcool man Liam O'Riordan.

Liam, wearing a back support, was there with his wife Siobhán and their son David.   He was no stranger to the air ambulance as he had been the very first person to avail of its services  at the beginning of last month.  Two days after participating in a fundraising event for Irish Community Rapid Response, the umbrella organisation for the air ambulance, Liam had an accident while up a ladder doing a spot of painting at home.  The alarm was raised immediately as Liam needed urgent treatment and in the space of minutes he was in the helicopter and heading to CUH in Cork.

The journey took all of seven minutes from Rathcool Aerodrome to Bishopstown GAA pitches where he was met by an ambulance to take him to A&E in the adjacent hospital.  According to Liam, the service is a vital addition to not alone the local community in Rathcool but to rural Ireland and particularly the south of the country. "I was out two days beforehand taking part in a truck run around Millstreet in aid of the ICCR," he said. "There were over 130 trucks taking part from all over." By the time his wife Siobhán had left the house to follow her husband into the hospital, her husband was being treated by doctors in A&E.

"This is a vital service for rural Ireland and we realised the importance of it ourselves first hand when Liam had his accident," said Siobhán. Since that day the helicopter has flown no fewer than 56 missions, coming to the rescue at locations from the Dingle Peninsula in the west to Dungarvan  in the east. During his address, the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, referred to the extremely busy period the air ambulance service has had since becoming operational as a 'phenomenal start'.  Pilot John Murray, back on land after a demonstration flight, said the air ambulance could be on the scene within 20 minutes in an area which is 10,000 square miles or almost 20,000 square kilometres.