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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Hammond rescuers hit by hoax gift
Yorkshire Air Ambulance
Richard Hammond left Leeds in the air ambulance on Thursday
A charity appeal for the air ambulance which rescued Top Gear star Richard Hammond after his high-speed crash has fallen victim to a 50,000 hoax.

The money was pledged to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance which took the presenter to hospital shortly after the smash at Elvington airfield near York.

The charity is hoping to raise 500,000 to pay for a second aircraft.

But the appeal total has now fallen to 152,000 after a gift of 50,000 turned out to be false.

The donor had pledged the cash but when the appeal approached the bank, officials said they could not hand over the money.

Further demands for the donor to verify his details have not been met - so now organisers believe they have been the victims of a hoax.

Earlier this week, Mr Hammond's wife Amanda praised the air ambulance crew for getting her husband to Leeds General Infirmary so quickly after the near-300mph crash.

"The service is entirely funded by charitable donations and there is little doubt in my mind that without it, Richard would not be making the excellent progress he is," she said.

The important thing is not the one rotten apple but the thousands and thousands of good people who have donated
Martin Eede, Yorkshire Air Ambulance chief executive

Mick Lindley, operations manager at the air support unit at Yorkshire Air Ambulance, said the hoax setback was "disappointing" for an organisation which relies solely on donations.

"We were at the 200,000 mark but now that's dropped back," he said.

"We had a single large donation of 50,000 at the weekend but it turns out to have been a hoax. It's disappointing but we can't dwell on it.

"The actual response has been very positive and people's generosity has meant we can bring forward plans to buy a second helicopter."

Chief executive Martin Eede said: "The important thing is not the one rotten apple but the thousands and thousands of good people who have donated and supported the air ambulance, which in turn will support the people of Yorkshire."

Donation investigated

James Casey, marketing manager at the donations website Justgiving.com, said: "Since the weekend we have investigated this donation, requesting that the donor contact his bank to verify both his identity and the validity of the donation.

"Having received no firm confirmation that the donation was genuine, we withdrew this figure of 50,000 from the appeal page."

Yorkshire Air Ambulance operates an MD902 Explorer twin engine helicopter with a top speed of 154 mph.

It flies paramedics to more than 1,000 incidents a year but costs 3,600 a day to operate.

A second helicopter would enable a medical team to attend an extra 300 incidents a year when the first aircraft would otherwise be engaged.


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