FOR the last 12 years Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance has been a shining beacon of hope for thousands of people.
Priding itself in helping those in dire moments of distress and need, the charity has gone from strength to strength since its inception.
Now approaching a milestone 10,000th incident, the heroes of the air ambulance need the public’s help more than ever.
Formed in March 2000, the air ambulance has attended more than 9,100 incidents, averaging around 60 emergency calls every month.
With no direct Government or National Lottery funding, the charity relies almost entirely on the generosity of the public for support.
The ambulance crew fly an EC 135 helicopter based at Henstridge Airfield on the border of Dorset and Somerset.
Cruising at speeds up to 150mph, paramedics can reach any location in the two counties within 19 minutes of an emergency call.
Jane Vicat witnessed their work first-hand during a geology field trip on the Jurassic Coast in February.
More than a mile from the nearest road, investigating the coast’s rocky beaches, she slipped – suffering a broken fibula, torn ligaments and a displaced anklebone.
Mrs Vicat said: “I knew straight away I had broken something. Due to our location, it was very difficult to explain to the emergency services exactly where we were on the beach.
“I became very cold and shivery and everyone was concerned.
“It was 4.30pm so the sun was about to set. We stared along the beach and tried to imagine how a helicopter would be able to land, as it was so rocky and there was a cliff behind us.
“After a while, the bright yellow helicopter of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance came into sight. I couldn’t believe they would be able to land, but they did. I was strapped to a board and carried over the rocks.
“I can’t thank the crew of Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance enough.”
Crews have so far attended a total of 587 incidents in 2012.
However, it has never been harder for the charity to keep saving lives – with operational costs totalling £1.5 million every year – working out at around £4,000 every day.
Jean Cawthorne was involved in a head-on road collision in April, suffering a severe neck injury.
She recalled: “I was taken to Yeovil District Hospital but tests showed I had a Hangman’s Fracture and I needed to go to Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, for an operation. The fracture was too unstable for me to travel by road, so the air ambulance was requested to help.
“I was driven very slowly, with a police escort, to Westlands Airfield where I was met by three cheery crew.
“At Frenchay, I had an operation to stabilise my neck and had several pins and rods fitted.
“Without the fantastic care of all concerned it could have been a lot worse, and owe a big thank you.”