THE HSE HAS confirmed that the death of a patient in an ambulance which caught fire at Naas General Hospital was a direct consequence of the fire.
Two National Ambulance Service paramedics were also injured in the incident, with one understood to have sustained burn injuries.
Speaking to reporters in Naas this evening, HSE director general Tony O’Brien said early indications point to “an oxygen related incident”.
He described the incident as an “unbelievable tragedy” and said that he has spoken to the family of the patient.
The ambulance was less than one year old, said O’Brien on RTÉ Six One this evening. He said that most of the ambulance was destroyed in the blaze.
TheJournal.ie understands that the ambulance caught fire while bringing a patient to the the Emergency Department. The patient, a man in his 70s, died shortly afterwards and O’Brien said his death was a direct consequence of the fire.
Images from the scene show the front of the ambulance is heavily damaged.
Two medics who had brought the elderly man to hospital were injured in the fire. One has now been released and the second was taken to St James’ Hospital in Dublin but is said to be doing well.
Naas General Hospital earlier ordered an evacuation after the incident, which happened at 2pm today while the patient was being brought by ambulance to the Emergency Department (ED).
The hospital’s emergency plan has been put into action, and all staff and patients have been evacuated from the ED and the nearby outpatients clinic.
Gardaí in Naas said they and the HSE are investigating all the circumstances surrounding today’s fire.
In a statement, they said:
A male patient was in the ambulance at the time of the fire and was pronounced dead at the scene. The area has been sealed off for a technical examination.
The HSE confirmed that the Emergency Department has temporarily closed.
The National Ambulance Service (NAS) has implemented diversion protocols and patients are being taken to alternative hospitals.
The NAS has also informed both the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and An Garda Siochána, and a full investigation is underway into the incident.
The hospital has advised any member of the public seeking access to medical care to visit their GP in the first instance and if necessary to access another Emergency Department in an alternative hospital.
The hospital has also requested that members of the public refrain from visiting at this time.
‘It combusted and exploded’
Witnesses reported loud bangs and explosions, and flames licking the building. Images taken show black smoke billowing from the hospitals lands.
The HSE referred all queries about the incident to The Hospital Group, who said they would be making a statement soon.
It’s understood four fire brigades attended the scene, as well as several Garda vehicles.
Dozens of other patients have been evacuated due to the blaze, someone familiar with the hospital investigation told TheJournal.ie.
“It combusted and exploded,” the person said.
“The fire was outside the A&E entrance, they were bringing the patient into Casualty.”
Another witness said: ”The ambulance went up very fast. There were lots of bangs and explosions. I hope there wasn’t anyone hurt.”
Local councillor Fintan Brett told TheJournal.ie the whole area is “in shock”.
“Imagine that poor man going into hospital, thinking he was going to get better, and then he passes away. It’s absolutely terrible. My thoughts go out to him and his family.”
With reporting from Michelle Hennessy and Garreth MacNamee.