Crew praised for quick thinking as ambulance catches fire and explodes at Daisy Hill Hospital
AN ambulance crew have been praised for their quick thinking in moving their vehicle away from a hospital before it caught fire and exploded.
The explosion, which gutted the private ambulance at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, was heard up to half a mile away with some residents thinking it was a bomb.
No-one was hurt in the blaze which happened just after 9am yesterday in the grounds of the hospital.
SDLP councillor Michael Savage said the crew's fast response "probably saved a number of lives and prevented serious injuries".
"I understand the crew noticed an electrical fault and drove the ambulance down the hill to an exit, away from the main hospital and behind a wall," he said.
"They managed to get away unscathed before it caught light.
"Because of the oxygen tanks on board the explosion was felt in homes half a mile away. That and the fuel tank make for a dangerous mix. In fact, people in the city had mistaken it for a bomb."
Mr Savage also paid tribute to the fire service for their quick response
"We are lucky to have a great fire crew here in Newry," he said.
The Fire Service confirmed the blaze had been caused by an electrical fault in the engine.
An oxygen cylinder inside the ambulance is understood to have exploded and fanned the flames.
Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus contained and extinguished the blaze and the incident was dealt with by 9.40am.
The NI Ambulance Service said: "We understand there was no patient on board and the crew were able to get out of the vehicle safely.
"The NIFRS attended the scene and were able to extinguish the vehicle."
The ambulance belonged to Proparamedics, a private contractor based in Belfast's Weavers Court Business Park.
Its director Heather Hamill-Vaughan confirmed there were no patients on board at the time and and the incident will be fully investigated.
She said the important thing was that no-one was hurt.
"Due to the rapid action of the crew the ambulance was placed to cause least damage and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service arrived on scene quickly and extinguished the fire," she said.
Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said news of the fire was very concerning.
"Thankfully no-one was injured in the incident," the Newry and Armagh MP said.
"I want to commend the actions of the ambulance crew and the emergency services for extinguishing the blaze.
"There now needs to be an investigation into how this fire started and what the fault was to ensure that it does not happen again."