By Pat Flynn
The Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) air ambulance is on standby at Shannon Airport rather than its usual base in Athlone.
The helicopter, operated by the Irish Air Corps and the HSE’s National Ambulance Service (NAS), is usually based at the Custume Barracks in Athlone.
For the past two nights however, it has been housed in a hangar at Shannon Airport after it was forced to divert there on Wednesday.
The crew of Air Corps 112 had responded to a call in the Headford area of Co Galway on Wednesday but were stood down.
While on approach to Athlone the weather had deteriorated drastically leaving the crew unable to make an approach to their landing pad. The crew had no option but to divert to an alternate airport.
The Augusta Westland AW-139 helicopter flew to Shannon where it was accommodated overnight in the Westair Aviation hangar.
The Air Corps crew remained on standby at Shannon Airport yesterday (Thursday) ready to respond to calls if required and if the weather allowed.
However, when an air ambulance was needed for a mission in Sligo, the Irish Coast Guard helicopter stepped in to fulfil the role.
The crew of Rescue 118 carried out a medical evacuation (medevac) on behalf of the Air Corps as it was considerably closer than the Air Corps aircraft at Shannon. Rescue 118, operating as Medevac 118, airlifted a patient from Sligo to University Hospital Galway before returning to Sligo.
A Defence Forces spokesman confirmed: “The Air Corps helicopter was returning to Athlone after being tasked to Headford in Galway but they were unable to land. There was heavy snow and visibility was very poor. They flew to Shannon instead where they remain on standby to respond to calls weather permitting.”
The crew will remain on standby at Shannon until a break in the weather allows them to safely return to Athlone.