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Ambulance Service dispute response time after Barcroft gas explosion

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

THE Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) has defended it's response time to the Barcroft gas explosion after concerns were raised by Sinn Fein's Mickey Brady and Liz Kimmons.

Relaying residential reports that it took NIAS almost an hour to arrive to the scene of Monday evening's blast at the family home, Newry and Mourne Sinn Fein Councillor Liz Kimmons said that delays in ambulance response times can have grave consequences.

"There are reports that the Ambulance did not appear until nearly an hour after the Fire Service had arrived at the scene at Barcroft. By that time those injured had been taken to hospital. This has caused great concern as delays can have serious consequences," she said.

Echoing Ms Kimmins' concerns, and describing the reports as "worrying", Sinn Fein Newry & Armagh MP Mickey Brady said: "I have contacted the Ambulance Service (NIAS) for their response to this worrying claim. Communities should not have to experience long and dangerous delays waiting for ambulances."

The blast occurred at approximately 6.30pm as the family were cooking dinner in the kitchen, and resulted in the 34-year-old mother and her children, three boys, aged 12, 10 and six, and her eight-year-old daughter needing hospital treatment for burns injuries sustained to their faces and hands.

Hitting out at the reports of a delayed response, John McPoland from the NIAS said: "NIAS is concerned at some of the reports circulating that we did not respond to this call for one hour when our evidence is to the contrary and in fact by collaborating with staff at Daisy Hill ED, we may have had a crew at the scene even sooner.

"Much of this was made redundant due to the decision made, in the best interests of the patient, by the Paramedic/part-time firefighter to move the patients prior to our arrival."

Mr McPoland explained: "The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service received a call from NIFRS Control relating to a gas explosion in the Barcroft Park area of Newry at 18:27 on Monday, November 20.

"The nearest available crew was despatched from Armagh at 18:31 with further vehicles despatched as support from Armagh and Craigavon. One NIAS crew was at Daisy Hill Emergency Department with a patient to be handed over to ED staff.

"By 18:38 the Control Officer in ambulance control contacted staff in the Emergency Department to request that the ambulance crew be made available to respond to the incident in Barcroft Park and were told that they should be available within five minutes, meaning that they would be on scene within another two or three minutes.

"At 18:45 NIAS received a further call from NIFRS to inform us that one of their crew was a NIAS Paramedic and worked with NIFRS as a part-time firefighter. He made a call, in consultation with his officer, that, given the proximity of the hospital, it would be appropriate to transport the patients to the ED in a Fire Officer's car and a fire tender. NIFRS then informed NIAS to stand our crews down.

"NIAS also despatched three Rapid Response Paramedics and two Ambulance Officers to the scene who were later stood down.

"The crew at Daisy Hill assisted the fire personnel when they arrived at the ED and the original crew which had been despatched from Armagh continued to the scene of the incident to confirm that there were no other casualties requiring treatment. This crew arrived at the scene at 18:55."

Newry SDLP Councillor Michael Savage offered his support to the family and expressed his relief that there were no fatalities.

"This is a very serious incident which could quite easily have resulted in loss of life and the whole community in Barcroft is shocked and just grateful that the injuries to the mother and children are not life threatening," he said.

"I called to the house to offer my support to the family and was able to assess the extent of the damage. The explosion was of significant force as it blew out the kitchen windows and the family are all very lucky to be alive."

Independent Newry and Mourne Councillor, Davy Hyland, said that the young mum and her children had "an incredible escape".

"I think that they were very, very lucky, given the fact that they were cooking at the time and that the actual gas cooker which they were cooking on actually exploded. Two of the children and the mother are still in hospital, but I think that they've had an incredible escape. Thank God there's no serious injuries."

Commending the efforts of the Fire and Rescue Services, Mr Hyland added: "Fire and Rescue Services were very quick on the ball and, as usual, they seemed very professional in their whole attitude and it's reassuring that you have that sort of back-up service that's going to be there so quick and readily available to help people."

Rod O'Hare, Station Commander at Newry Fire Station, said they weren't sure of the cause of the explosion.

"We couldn't say whether or not that was a fault, or whether or not a ring was on, or the oven had gone out and when the door was open it exposed the gas to the light of the top ring and then we had the deflagration," he said.

"There was some light structural damage to the inside of the house, windows were blown out and the people were incredibly fortunate. We had cleared it with gas monitors before we went in to do any inspections to make sure that it wasn't an ongoing issues such as a gas leak, but the tank was disconnected on the outside and there was no other issues in the house.

"They had minor burns but they were able to escape on foot. It could have been so much worse but it was one of those unfortunate domestic accidents. Everybody within our service are grateful that the outcome was not much worse than it actually was."

The station commander opined that all household appliances should be periodically checked by accredited and approved engineers.

 "The first thing that we would say is that when people are working with gas, always ensure that if they're fitting a new appliance that they get it done by a CORGI registered, accredited engineer and that if they have any doubt about the performance or the condition of any appliance that they would be using in the house, that they stop using it until such times as when an accredited engineer can inspect it."

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