Claims it took ambulance personnel almost an hour to respond to a serious gas explosion at a house on Monday evening are unfounded, said a spokesperson for the NI Ambulance Service.
Five people, including four children, were injured and eventually taken to hospital following the gas explosion at a home in the Barcroft area of Newry.
However, concerns were raised earlier this week in relation to the time taken for an ambulance to attend the scene.
There were reports that it took almost an hour for crews to arrive but NIAS have put the record straight.
A spokesperson for NIAS, speaking to Armagh I, said: “The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service received a call from NIFRS Control relating to a gas explosion in the Barcroft Park area of Newry at 18:27 on Monday 20 November.
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“The nearest available crew was despatched from Armagh at 18:31 with further vehicles despatched as support from Armagh and Craigavon.
“One NIAS crew was at Daisy Hill Emergency Department with a patient to be handed over to ED staff.
“By 18:38 the Control Officer in ambulance control contacted staff in the Emergency Department to request that the ambulance crew be made available to respond to the incident in Barcroft Park and were told that they should be available within five minutes, meaning that they would be on scene within another two or three minutes.
“At 18:45 NIAS received a further call from NIFRS to inform us that one of their crew was a NIAS Paramedic and worked with NIFRS as a part-time firefighter.
“He made a call, in consultation with his officer, that, given the proximity of the hospital, it would be appropriate to transport the patients to the ED in a Fire Officer’s car and a fire tender.
“NIFRS then informed NIAS to stand our crews down.
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“NIAS also despatched three Rapid Response Paramedics and two Ambulance Officers to the scene who were later stood down.
“The crew at Daisy Hill assisted the fire personnel when they arrived at the ED and the original crew which had been despatched from Armagh continued to the scene of the incident to confirm that there were no other casualties requiring treatment. This crew arrived at the scene at 18:55.
“NIAS is concerned at some of the reports circulating that we did not respond to this call for one hour when our evidence is to the contrary and in fact by collaborating with staff at Daisy Hill ED, we may have had a crew at the scene even sooner.
“Much of this was made redundant due to the decision made, in the best interests of the patient, by the Paramedic/part-time firefighter to move the patients prior to our arrival.
“NIAS faces challenges in delivering our service in the context of more than 200,000 calls per year and will always seek to provide the quickest and most appropriate response to those who have need of our help.”