Air ambulance landing site at Ottery St Mary Football Club?

Devon Air Ambulance

Devon Air Ambulance - Credit: Archant

Charity is appealing for support from community

Airborne paramedics will be able to reach Ottery communities even in the hours of darkness if a suitable night-time landing site is approved.

The Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) is extending its life-saving service from the end of October, when it will be flying until midnight, enabling response teams to save vital time in reaching casualties.

The charity is appealing to communities to help fund and support the operation and has earmarked Ottery Football Club’s front pitch as an ideal location because it is floodlit, flat and in close proximity to the town.

Community helipads development officer for the DAAT, Toby Russell, attended a town council meeting last week to address concerns about the long-term future of the site. He explained that any investment in equipment could be transferred to another place if needed.

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He said DAAT could ‘piggyback’ off the existing floodlighting at the club, simply requiring an electronic switch which could be bought and installed for £970 plus VAT and operated via mobile SIM card – presenting significant cost savings compared to unlit sites.

Mr Russell told the Herald: “A community landing site is a surveyed floodlit area which will enable us to bring a life-saving service into the heart of communities when it is dark.

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“Floodlighting is an essential component of a community landing site for both safety and practical reasons. The ability to remotely control the lighting system is important and means that no one needs to be on hand in the event of an emergency.

“The proposed landing site at Ottery Football Club has been surveyed by DAAT operations staff when potential obstacles, access points and other general site characterises were assessed and recorded. This is a really important part of our approach to night-time flying and essentially means that the pilots and crew know what a site looks like prior to their arrival. This will help to reduce the inherent risks involved and speed up the process of the air ambulance landing in a community.”

The DAAT is currently in talks with the landowner of the site to determine if it can be used and Mr Russell said it would ideally want to have it operational by November.

If this gets the go-ahead, it will be down to the community to fund the equipment needed to operate the lighting – the cost is likely to be shared between Ottery’s county councillor Claire Wright and the town council – but will be confirmed at a later date.

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