Yorkshire Air Ambulance at 18: Harrogate fall survivor pays tribute to rescuers

The sound of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance's helicopter blades has given many the comfort that help is close at hand, and today former patients from across the region paid tribute to their rescuers by toasting 18 years of the vital service.

Scott Housley from Harrogate was rescued by a Yorkshire Air Ambulance crew
Scott Housley from Harrogate was rescued by a Yorkshire Air Ambulance crew

Gathering at the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Nostell Air Support Unit near Wakefield former patients and staff came together today (Thursday, October 25) for the service's 18th Birthday Patient Party, some meeting for the first time since they were rescued.

While enjoying mugs of tea and slices of a special birthday cake, it was also a chance for the visitors to take in a tour of the service's new helicopters, the airbus H145.

Welcoming them this morning Peter Sunderland, Chairman of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance,described how far the service has come since its founding in 2000.

He said: "When I joined the charity as a trustee the first meeting we had was about how we had just paid £68,000 to lease a helicopter, but where was the £68,000 for the next month coming from? Several members decided we needed to do something about it, to build and grow, and that has been possible thanks to the people of Yorkshire. It is not us who have been able to do this, we are the custodians of what you have been prepared to give and support us with financially over this period."

He added "Its fantastic to think how far we have come over these 18 years and all we have achieved. The charity is in good health, with at least two years in reserves to keep it going if we didn't get another penny. But that doesn't seem likely to happen, as the people of Yorkshire are very generous, we receive a lot of legacies, support from patients,paramedics and everyone who acts as an ambassador for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance."

After meeting former patients he spoke to the Advertiser on how important the service is to people in rural areas.

He said: "In North Yorkshire, we are often first on the scene if someone is injured or in a serious trauma situation. Many patients tell us they hear the chopper blades and think I'm badly injured but there is a hope' because I am going to be treated by a professional quickly, and be flown to a major trauma centre if its required.

He added: "Its incredible to see how it's developed, and that's been made possible by the people of Yorkshire,who have been willing to support us, and the saving of lives proves the worth of it. "

For Scott Housley, 72, from Harrogate the day was an important chance to give thanks to two of his rescuers, aircrew paramedics Pete Rhodes and Kit Von Mickwitz. Scott had been left with a fractured eye socket, broken nose and jaw, alongside other injuries after falling 30 ft from a fell side near Ingleborough.

Fortunately he had been out walking with friends who were able to keep him warm and stem any bleeding, until the arrival of the air ambulance from RAF Topcliffe.

Paying tribute to the efforts of Scott's friends and the nearby Cave Rescue Association in Clapham, Mr Rhodes described how they were able to save Scott.

He said: "Because of the steep side of the hill we had to land on top of the hill and walk down, which was quite difficult to do. But his friends had done a great job looking after him, we kept him warm and assessed his head injury. Because of the injuries he had we were concerned about broken bones in his face and neck.

"The helicopter relocated to the valley, and cave rescuers came out with a stretcher, so between us we could carry him down to the aircraft.

"The impact had given him a nasty cut but the injuries underneath that could have been caused were the main concern."

Scott would be later transported to Leeds General Infirmary for further treatment but was soon back on his feet. After nine days he was released from hospital, and two days later was out again walking.

Now a fund-raising volunteer for the service he said:"I have seen Pete since my fall but I haven't seen Kit since then, and it was so good to see them and have a chat. It helped me get a better understanding of how they do it and how everything is structured.

"I just wanted to thank them for what they did, and doing it with compassion and kindness. It really meant a lot being able to talk to them again."

He added: "I hope I can help by doing this fundraising and I would love to see if there is anything I can do with my experience, skill or qualifications that could be put to use.

"The service is essential, Yorkshire is a big county and where I had my accident a land based ambulance would have had to travel around two miles to get to me. With the open countryside its its not just something that's just nice to have, we need it."

Having met Scott and his family since the accident Pete said how important moments like this can be to the service.

He said: "Scott has been to see us on the unit since, and totally out of the blue at an event in York a lady appeared and introduced herself as his daughter. We do get people coming to visit but this is not something we get that often. It's really nice when we do though, especially with a job that sticks in your mind like this.

"Sadly we do get a lot of people who don't make it, and to be able to see someone we have helped make a full recovery, and now involving himself with the YAA has been fantastic. You really can't beat moments like that."

Outside there was a familiar sight for former patients like Scott following a demonstration of the YAA's new helicopter. The number G-YACC emblazoned on the tail as it landed, identifying it as the same which had carried him to hospital.

After the helicopter landed Kit met Scott for the first time since the accident. He said: "Its great to see him as well as he is, it looks like he had a really good recovery, and is already back out walking. "

He added: "Its really rewarding that we can help people in isolated communicates and rural areas, I know the air ambulance has a lasting impact on the community, and have come to rely on us. Its really rewarding to be part of the celebrations today and a great feeling to see Scott today looking so well."