East Anglian Air Ambulance grounded over safety concerns

The East Anglian Air Ambulance. Photo: Alan Storer
The East Anglian Air Ambulance. Photo: Alan Storer

The East Anglian Air Ambulance has been grounded following safety concerns after a similar helicopter crashed into a pub in Scotland and another developed an ‘indication defect’ yesterday.

The service, which covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk uses Eurocopter EC 135 helicopters, the same model of aircraft which was involved in the accident in Glasgow which killed nine people on November 29.

However, residents have been assured the medical service will still be able to access patients in emergencies.

A spokesman for Bond Air Services said the decision to ground the helicopters had been made following an incident yesterday.

He said: “During normal operations yesterday, one of our EC135 fleet has experienced an indication defect that requires further technical investigation. Therefore as a precautionary measure we have temporarily suspended service operations whilst we undertake detailed diagnosis. We commenced investigations overnight, are continuing this morning and are in close liaison with Eurocopter regarding this investigation.

“Further to our update earlier this morning we can confirm that we continue to investigate the technical fault that resulted in us temporarily suspending service operations yesterday. We are now conducting functional tests across each of our EC135 aircraft in order to gather more specific information.”

The East Anglian Air Ambulance is a charity which uses two helicopters, one based in Cambridge and one based in Norwich.

A spokeswoman for the charity said patients would continue to receive treatment from the medics.

She said: “We are not flying at the moment, after being told to ground the helicopter by Bond Air Services (the helicopter operator).

“However, nothing changes in terms of the medical services we offer. The helicopter is not the most important thing, it is the people inside the helicopter that are key.

“We have support cars that are based with the helicopters with the same equipment inside, that we often use instead of the helicopter.

“Journey times may take slightly longer, but the cars are fitted with sirens and blue lights.”

In total, 22 police and air ambulance helicopters are affected by the grounding.

A spokesman for charity MAGPAS Helimedix said they used a different model of helicopter, and were not affected by the grounding.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police was unable to comment on whether the vehicle used by the force was affected.