Ambulance incidents: Wheels falling off, break downs, paramedic killed

Explosion in Kildare on Thursday is not the first issue with an ambulance in the State

Emergency services attend an ambulance fire at Naas general Hospital, Co Kildare. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Emergency services attend an ambulance fire at Naas general Hospital, Co Kildare. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins


There have been a number of incidents in recent years involving ambulances in the State.

On Thursday a male patient was pronounced dead and a paramedic injured after an ambulance burst into flames outside the emergency department of Naas General Hospital in Co Kildare.

The HSE said early indications suggest that the explosion caused a fire to start in the rear of the vehicle and it appeared that the explosion was related to oxygen.

Previous incidences have involved fire, alleged faulty doors and wheels falling off.

March 2nd, 2016: Paramedic PJ Cahill told the High Court his lifelong friend, father of six Simon Sexton, was killed after falling out of the side door of an ambulance onto the road as they transported a patient.

Mr Cahill’s action for damages for nervous shock over witnessing that accident centres on claims the ambulance featured a side door, which opened against the direction of travel.

It was alleged there was failure to ensure a motion lock was fitted to the door to ensure it could not be opened while the ambulance was moving. The incident happened in June 2010.

Mr Cahill (50), Kilnagarbet, Stradone, Co Cavan sued his employers, the Health Service Executive (HSE), and the German manufacturer of the ambulance, Wietmarscher Ambulanz Und Sonderf Ahrzeug GMBH.

Both defendants denied the claims against them. On the third day of the case, Miriam Reilly SC told the court the case had been resolved and could be struck out against both defendants.

The HSE had been fined €500,000 in 2013 for health and safety breaches, which led to the death of paramedic Mr Sexton who fell out of the moving ambulance

August 26th, 2015: The two back wheels of an ambulance fell off while it was transporting a patient on a life support unit from Letterkenny, Co Donegal to University College Hospital in Galway.

The ambulance was also carrying a nurse, an anaesthetist and two paramedics. Subsequently, the patient died, but it was not believed the accident played any part in this.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams highlighted the case and said only for the skill of the driver the incident would have been much more serious.

Mr Adams said three similar incidents had happened in the previous year.

July 21st, 2014: An ambulance broke down while carrying a heart attack patient. Jenny Duffy said it took more than an hour for her mother to get to hospital; a journey that according to Google Maps should take a car about 25 minutes.

Ms Duffy’s mother recovered in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda after having a cardiac arrest.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS) confirmed a warning light activated on the dashboard during the trip and the crew requested another ambulance to bring the patient to hospital. The vehicle was pulled over.

Ms Duffy said her family believed the engine had failed. Meanwhile around the same time, paramedic sources said another vehicle was off the road in Co Louth after it filled with smoke on that Saturday.

There was no patient on board but the crew pulled over after smoke filled the front of the vehicle.

The NAS confirmed that this ambulance had a mechanical problem.

March 7th, 2014: An ambulance lost its wheel after bringing a patient to hospital in Drogheda. The HSE said there was no patient on board when the vehicle lost a wheel in the early hours of the morning.

However a source in the ambulance service said, “this vehicle had just been used to bring a sick person to hospital in Drogheda and was returning to Dundalk at 5am when the wheel came off it.”

“It was only going at 20kph when the crew felt the jolt. What if it happened when it was on the way to the Lourdes hospital or if it was while the ambulance was on the motorway and travelling at much faster speeds?”

The ambulance was towed away and the National Ambulance Service said it would be subject to “a technical examination” to see what happened.

The ambulance service said, “The ambulance crew were uninjured and resumed duty in another vehicle.”