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AIR AMBULANCE LANDING SCARE; Medics forced to ground after hitting power lines.

Byline: PAT FLYNN

AN emergency air ambulance had to land in a field after colliding with power lines while on an urgent call yesterday.

The helicopter was on its way to Templemore in Co Tipperary to airlift a seriously-ill patient to hospital when it came in contact with the cables.

The collision resulted in the vehicle making a "heavy but controlled" landing in a field at Currabaha Cross, close to the R498 road, 6kms from Borrisleigh.

The aircraft, which was carrying two Air Corps flight crew and an HSE advanced paramedic, landed heavily and was damaged.

Emergency services responded quickly to the incident, which happened at around 2.10pm, 20 minutes after the crew had lifted off from its based at Custume Barracks in Athlone.

The Eurocopter EC-135 is operated by the Air Corps on behalf of the HSE and staffed by military pilots and a National Ambulance Service advanced paramedic.

The helicopter, one of two operated by the Corps, sustained extensive damage in the crash landing with the fuselage showing visible signs of buckling.

The skid bars were covered by the high grass so it's not clear how much damage was caused to the aircraft's underside.

A Department of Justice, Equality and Defence statement said: "An incident involving the EAS helicopter, operated by the Irish Air Corps on behalf of the Health Service Executive, occurred this afternoon.

"The helicopter departed Custume Barracks, Athlone at 13.50 en route to an emergency call out in Tipperary. At 14.10 the helicopter was forced to perform a heavy landing near Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary.

"Two Air Corps crew and one HSE paramedic on board were uninjured. The patient subject to the call-out was transferred to hospital by road.

"The extent of damage to the helicopter is to be determined. The Air Accident Investigation Unit in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has been informed." The department also confirmed "contingency plans are being put in place to resume the EAS service as soon as possible".

Shortly after 4.30pm, an Air Corps AW-139 helicopter arrived at the scene and landed nearby. Several military personnel got out and met the crew. A second AW-139 hovered overhead apparently carrying out an aerial survey of the scene before landing.

A number of personnel wearing orange safety jackets alighted from the helicopter. The Air Accident Investigation Unit sent an investigator to the scene as soon as they were informed. However, it has to be established whether the AAIU will carry out a formal investigation of the incident.

The Emergency Aeromedical Service has responded on average to one call a day since it was launched on June 4.

CAPTION(S):

FLOORED The air ambulance after coming down in Tipperary yesterday
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Jun 20, 2012
Words:453
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