herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Seatbelt may have hindered rescue bid

The blazing ambulance
The blazing ambulance

A seatbelt may have hindered the efforts of paramedics to save a frail pensioner from a burning ambulance.

Christopher Byrne (79) died in the inferno that engulfed the ambulance, which had moments before arrived outside the emergency department of Naas General Hospital on Thursday.

Two paramedics who had been transporting Mr Byrne, from Suncroft, Co Kildare, tried to save him, but it is believed that a seatbelt - mandatory for patients being transferred in an ambulance - hindered their efforts.

As family and friends mourned Mr Byrne yesterday, investigations into the cause of the blaze began.

The HSE's serious incident unit is focusing on an oxygen tank in the ambulance which, on initial inspection, appears to have exploded after possible exposure to a spark or other risk.

Tarmac

Naas-based paramedic David Finnegan, who was treated for burns in St James's Hospital, was released last evening. His colleague, Stephen Lloyd, who was thrown across the tarmac by the force of the explosion, was treated and discharged on Thursday evening.

Senior paramedic sources said the investigation will also look at whether the incorrect gas was put into any of the cylinders or if a 12-watt bulb that comes on automatically when the oxygen storage unit is opened blew.

Two other areas of investigation will focus on the engines of those particular Mercedes ambulances, which have been fitted with a fire-suppression unit, due to serious concerns over previous engine-related fires.

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