Naas ambulance fire: 'This is the worst nightmare for any paramedic'

Union calls for entire fleet to be examined after man dies in explosion

Naas ambulance fire: 'This is the worst nightmare for any paramedic'

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The union representing the majority of paramedics in Ireland has called for a full examination of all ambulances following yesterday's explosion outside Naas General Hospital.

A male patient in his 70s was killed and two paramedic staff were injured after an ambulance burst into flames at the entrance to the hospital’s emergency department.

The HSE said it appeared that oxygen played a part in sparking the blaze, which began at the rear of the vehicle.

SIPTU organiser Paul Bell said a forensic and technical examination should be carried out on the ambulance in question, alongside a review of the country’s entire fleet.

He added that there had been "several similar incidents" in the past, saying ambulance representatives were "never fully informed as to original cause of other such fires".

Speaking to reporters last night, HSE chief Tony O'Brien cast doubt on there being any such precedents.  

"I am not aware of any," he said, when asked if there had been similar cases. 

David Hall of the Lifeline Ambulance Service, the largest private operator in the field, told Newstalk that paramedics are always conscious of the dangers they face.

"There are 500 vehicles in the country that carry oxygen. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative that this be resolved as soon as possible."

Mr Hall described yesterday’s fire as "the worst nightmare" for any paramedic.

"Many staff would be tortured by what happened," he said.

He added that he was not aware of similar incidents in Ireland, but pointed to past accidents involving gas in the UK.

In a statement yesterday, the HSE praised the "heroic efforts of our paramedic colleagues and hospital staff" in trying to save the patient's life.

Supports are being made available to his family, as well as the two staff who suffered minor injuries, it said. 

Hospital staff have been asked to ensure all oxygen tanks are checked and re-familiarise themselves with emergency ambulance evacuation procedures.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) has also directed its supplier to undertake a programme of checks on the oxygen equipment in ambulances.

Three separate investigations are now underway, conducted by gardaí, the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).