Air ambulance landing lights installed at North Tawton rugby pitch

Wednesday 23rd November 2016 4:00 pm
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Picture by James Bird ()

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THE community of North Tawton will be helping to save lives as night time air ambulance landing lights have been installed at North Tawton’s rugby pitch.

The new lights will enable the pitch to act as an emergency night landing site for Devon Air Ambulance.

Following an appeal from Devon Air Ambulance Trust for parish and town councils across the county to consider developing floodlit community landing sites, North Tawton Town Council took the initiative on board and on Monday (November 21) unveiled the new lighting on the rugby pitch.

Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) had recently been working with communities to develop a network of floodlit landing sites which will enable it to bring a lifesaving service to the heart of communities during the night time.

The installation at North Tawton utilises the existing floodlighting at the rugby ground. The new lights are multi-functioning as they operate as general floodlights as well as enable Devon Air Ambulance to land a helicopter in the dark.

Vice chair of North Tawton Town Council Cllr Carol Burrow said that the funding for the project was paid jointly by the town council and Devon County Council. Half the funding was provided by the council, the other half came from the Devon County Council locality budget funding.

‘The landing lights will not only benefit North Tawton but other surrounding villages such as Winkleigh and Bow,’ she said.

‘Devon Air Ambulance has considered other landing sites in the town but as an ambulance had previously landed on the rugby field during the daytime, it was decided that this would be a good spot for a night time landing site.

Devon County councillor James McInnes added: ‘Having a night time landing place in the community is very important and I was happy to help by using locality budget funding.’

The efficiency of the lights was praised by acting town clerk Sarah Say, who said: ‘By utilising the existing lighting installation, the works were able to be completed for less than £1,000.

‘In North Tawton we are about 45 minutes drive time from A and E in Exeter, therefore the possibility of the air ambulance landing and taking off at night really is a potentially life-saving facility for the local community here in North Tawton.’

Toby Russell, community helipads development officer for Devon Air Ambulance, said: ‘We are extremely grateful to North Tawton Rugby Club, North Tawton Town Council and Cllr McInnes for enabling Devon Air Ambulance to land in North Tawton during the hours of darkness.

‘The development of a community landing site at the rugby club has been made possible through the installation of a remote switching system which means we can operate the club’s floodlights in the event of an emergency.

‘In practice the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) team, who are responsible for tasking the air ambulance, activate the lighting by making a telephone call to the switching unit. The unit then texts the air ambulance pilots and HEMS team to let them know the lights are switched on and ready for landing.

‘We would like to thank the community of North Tawton for their patience during the past month when we have regularly been using the landing site at the rugby club. These training and familiarisation flights have been an essential part of getting everyone ready for the imminent start of night operations in Devon.’

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