Accident causes Ambulance fatality

Tuesday 7th January

This was a day to remember for all the wrong reasons. The Patient Transport crew arrived in the morning, it was a different company from the usual ones and they came from just outside Oxford. I’d been contacted the day before asking me to get to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Oxford on Tuesday at around 16:00, for surgery on Wednesday. I left at 13:45 with the driver Chris and Kath who stayed in the back with me.

We were doing well until we were travelling along the Bedford bypass (a duel carriageway, where our journey took an unexpected turn for the worse. I can’t see much in the back only through some of the side windows and the back doors. I noticed that we were coming up the side of a lorry and his load caught my eye. At that point there was a loud noise and I felt the steering go on the front wheels of the Ambulance. I thought we may have had a tyre blow out and it sounded like a hub cap or something was being dragged along, it also felt as if we had gone over a small speed bump.

Chris pulled the Ambulance over and the lorry we were overtaking pulled up behind us putting his flashing yellow lights on. It was a low loader with a big machine and hoses/piping on it. Kath asked Chris what happened and then checked that I was OK. It turned out that a massive metal disc (that we found out connected to the Hose) had fallen off the back of the lorry, gone under the Ambulance which ripped the steering fluid cable off and knocked a hole in the sump. We were in an extremely precarious position but they managed to get both vehicles across the entrance slip road and onto the verge. This was still not a great place to be but better than where we were before.

With the hole in the sump and no oil we were going nowhere. The drivers exchanged details and Chris phoned his manager. To start with the manager said he had no stretcher Ambulances available but Alison (a lady who was working in the office at the time) told him there was one. He sent Alison out to pick us up and an AA lorry was on the way to recover the ambulance. The lorry driver by now had gone on his way. We were still quite away from Oxford, probably an hour and a half, so all we could do was sit and wait.

The AA man arrived first and because of our location and the fact that they had to transfer me from one Ambulance to another he called for the Highway Patrol or Police to assist. The police and cavalry Ambulance arrived at roughly the same time. It was dusk now and coming up to rush hour so they needed to get us off the duel carriage way as quickly as possible. When they were ready to do the transfer the Police stopped the traffic coming down the slip road. It was noticeable how the traffic on the duel carriage slowed down to rubber neck at this point instead of concentrating on their driving!

With me safely in the second Ambulance there was now another issue. The manager of the Ambulance crew wanted the Ambulance taken to a different place than their depot but the AA man didn’t have that long before the finish of his shift. The AA guy was really nice and helpful but the Ambulance manager was being arsey with him. Because of this argument we didn’t know if Alison would be coming back with us or staying with the Ambulance. We got off at the services where the argument ensued. Eventually the decision was made and Alison came back in the Ambulance with us.

We had a good laugh on the way to the Hospital, they were pleased it was me they had as a passenger but I was more pleased I had the team I did to deal with it. Chris was great, he kept his nerve and his driving saved us from a serious accident. I said that I’m so unlucky I must be a jinx, Chris said that he’d been driving Ambulances for 20 years and never had an accident before, It probably wasn’t the best thing to have said to him in hindsight. We considered ourselves extremely lucky as it could have been a very different story. We were pleased in a way that it did hit us because if it had hit a motorbike or small car there could have been fatalities.

I’d phoned the Ward as soon as the accident happened to let them know I’d be late. We actually arrived at the Nuffield at 18:00, which considering what had happened was pretty good going. I couldn’t thank the team enough for their care and handling of the situation, they were all amazing. So, that’s the day where the Ambulance was struck by a flying object, bled out at the side of the road and died while in service, an honourable way for an Ambulance to go.

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