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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 20 February, 2020

'An extraordinarily traumatic event': Ambulance fire at Naas General may have been 'oxygen related'

One of the paramedics injured in the incident remains in hospital but he is expected to make a full recovery.

Ambulance fire at hospital The scene at Naas General Hospital today. Source: Niall Carson/PA

THE HSE HAS launched an investigation after an ambulance caught fire at Naas General Hospital, killing a patient and injuring two paramedics.

The incident occurred at 2pm, as two National Ambulance Service paramedics were transferring the patient in his 70s to the Emergency Department. Speaking to reporters this evening, the HSE’s Director General Tony O’Brien said his death was a direct consequence of the fire.

“If the fire had not occurred, then he would not have died. The staff here at Naas General Hospital and the ambulance service personnel did everything they could to save him, but unfortunately it was not possible.”

Ambulance fire at hospital HSE Director General Tony O'Brien at the scene earlier today. Source: Niall Carson

My understanding is that the ambulance had arrived and the tailgate, which is the hoist at the back of the ambulance, had been lowered and as a member of the ambulance personnel went into the ambulance, there was an event which could be characterised as a small explosion at the rear of the ambulance. As a result of this the ambulance had been destroyed. It was not possible to remove the patient and as a result of that incident he lost his life.

O’Brien said he had spoken with the man’s family, describing them as “very distressed at their loss”.

“It is a terrible time for them and a terribly dark day for the health service.”

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‘Traumatic event’

One of the paramedics injured in the incident has now been discharged from hospital, while the second was transferred to St James’ Hospital in Dublin where he is still receiving care. O’Brien said the man is expected to make a full recovery.

He said he had met with the paramedic who was discharged from hospital, telling reporters “physically he is okay, but obviously this has been an extraordinarily traumatic event”.

Ambulance fire at hospital Source: PA WIRE

O’Brien said the two men had “performed heroically” and had “laid their lives on the line” as they do regularly for their patients.

Health Minister Simon Harris this evening said he was “numb” when he heard the news.

“I visited the hospital this evening to extend my sympathies to the family on the death of their loved one,” he said.
“I also wanted to support the incredible efforts of the staff in Naas General Hospital on what was an extremely difficult and upsetting day and to convey my hope of a full recovery to the injured paramedic staff. “

Cause of the fire

The fire appears to have started at the rear of the ambulance, O’Brien said, noting that it would not appear to have been related to engine.

“Without prejudicing our outcome, were focusing our concerns on the possibility that this was an oxygen related incident,” he said.

As a result a safety action notice has been issued to all national ambulance service personnel in relation to that issue as well there is particular focus on evacuation procedures. I want to stress that the staff did everything that they possibly could. In addition a series of checks are going to be carried out on all national ambulance service equipment in relation to this issue.

When asked about the condition of the ambulance, O’Brien said it was a 152 registered vehicle and the chassis and body had been in service since November this year.

“I don’t think anyone will give you any assurance 100% that any motor vehicle is completely safe,” he said.

What I can tell you is that this is an exceptional incident and the ambulance service is taking steps necessary to establish whether or not there is a cause for concern. If there is we will address that cause.

Source: Niall Carson/PA

As a result of the fire, the Emergency Department was closed, but has now reopened and is receiving both walk-in and ambulance admissions.

- With reporting by Garreth MacNamee in Naas.

Related: Death of patient at Naas General Hospital was direct consequence of ambulance fire>

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