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Wednesday, August 19, 1998 Published at 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK


Kent air ambulance to fly again

Three died in the crash near Rochester

The Kent Air Ambulance which crashed three weeks ago killing its pilot and two paramedics will be replaced next month.

Getting the Kent air ambulance off the ground again
Capt Graham Budden, 40, Tony Richardson, 47, and Mark Darby, 37, died when their helicopter hit overhead power cables and plunged to the ground near Rochester.

[ image: The helicopter crashed near Rochester]
The helicopter crashed near Rochester
The trust had delayed a decision on a possible replacement out of respect for the relatives.

But the decision has now been taken to fly the reserve helicopter kept for maintenance as a full-time replacement.

Specialist equipment

It will be fully operation on Wednesday, September 2.

"We've always had a back-up helicopter in the event of maintenance or any untoward incident," said Kate Chivers, Chief Executive of the Kent Air Ambulance NHS Trust.

[ image: Kate Chivers: There was always a backup helicopter]
Kate Chivers: There was always a backup helicopter
"We've had to re-equip it internally because it was also used for police work."

The news will delight local campaigners who insisted immediately after the fatal crash that a replacement should be found.

Fundraiser Doreen Northover, who lives near the crash site and whose son was carried to hospital by the air ambulance after he had an accident at a paper mill, said: "Straight away everybody wanted to give, give, give. The air ambulance used to come over the hill and we used to wave to them. Everybody knew they were around. It was a familiar noise.

At the weekend, the trust was given a "substantial" private donation to help put the air ambulance back in the sky. Around £50,000 has been raised to buy new specialist equipment.

Larger helicopter

The absence of the Kent Air Ambulance was emphasised on Monday, when a four-year-old girl, who'd been the victim of road crash, had to be airlifted in a Belgian helicopter from Margate to London.

[ image: Around £50,000 has been raised for the replacement]
Around £50,000 has been raised for the replacement
All UK air ambulances in the South East were either too far away or involved in separate emergencies.

However, experts said the Kent helicopter would probably have not been big enough to carry the medical support team which flew with the girl.

This had prompted some in the local community, including Thanet North MP Roger Gale, to call for a larger, all-purpose helicopter capable of Air-Sea rescue and carrying more than one patient.

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