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Sidmouth community unites to provide landing sites for air ambulance

10:19 17 February 2017

Toby Russell from the Devon Air Ambulance with Sidmouth RFC's Lester Wilmington aind some of the youngsters during their training evening. Ref: Archant5426 100217 SRFC

Toby Russell from the Devon Air Ambulance with Sidmouth RFC's Lester Wilmington aind some of the youngsters during their training evening. Ref: Archant5426 100217 SRFC

Simon Horn

A new partnership between Sidmouth Rugby Club and the Devon Air Ambulance Trust - that will see pitches used as landing sites - has celebrated lift-off.

The initiative means lifesaving charity’s helicopters can use the club’s Blackmore Drive and Sidford grounds during callouts.

Sidmouth Town Council spent £5,000 to adapt the floodlights, so they can be switched on at night remotely before the air ambulance comes in to land.

Toby Russell, community helipads development officer for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust, said the charity hopes to set up 300 community landing sites in the next four years.

“This is about thanking everyone that has been involved in coming together to make this happen for the community,” he told a special event at the rugby club last Friday.

The remote controlled floodlights which provide a night time landing site for the Devon Air Ambulance were officially launched at the Sidmouth Rugby Club's Blackmore ground this week. Ref: Archant5445 100217 SRFCThe remote controlled floodlights which provide a night time landing site for the Devon Air Ambulance were officially launched at the Sidmouth Rugby Club's Blackmore ground this week. Ref: Archant5445 100217 SRFC

“Thank-you very much for coming together and enabling this to happen. We hope we never have to use it, but, if we do, we have the facility here.”

He said the remote switching unit in the floodlights can be turned on by the helicopter’s emergency medical services in preparation for the crew’s arrival.

Mr Russell said: “We pass the information to our pilots. If you can tell them where they can land, they can make a quicker assessment getting onto the ground - saving up to 10 minutes.

“They then might be met by a land ambulance bringing someone for onwards transport, or it might be they are going to leave the scene and go to someone.”

The pitch at the Sidford ground has already been used by crews to assist at a collision on the A3052.

Lester Willmington, chairman of Sidmouth Rugby Club, said: “We said, ‘let’s make it happen’. What we have is two landing sites for their extended night-time flying here at Blackmore and Sidford, which will enable the helicopter for the benefit of our community and anyone who is taken unwell.

Councillor Jeff Turner, chairman of Sidmouth Town Council, added: “I think it has been a great community effort.”

The club also offered to raffle off a junior rugby ball signed by players from the Exeter Chiefs.

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