Get tough on vandals who damage lifesaving equipment, courts urged

The damage to the defibrillator in Mallow, Co Cork, was caught on CCTV.

A man whose life was saved thanks to a publicly accessible defibrillator is urging the courts to come down hard on vandals who damage lifesaving equipment.

Heart attack survivor, Nigel O’Sullivan, was speaking as the net closes on a youth who damaged one of the devices in Mallow, Co Cork, over the weekend: “I was saved because a defibrillator was available. If it wasn’t available, I wouldn’t be here — it’s as simple as that. Vandalism to lifesaving equipment like this put lives at risk.”

There was outrage in the town after Mallow Search and Rescue (MSAR) posted CCTV footage of the incident just outside their base on their Facebook page.

It shows five youths — three males and two females — walking past their premises around 8.40pm on Saturday, and one of the young men, wearing a dark, peaked hat, a light-coloured hoodie and dark tracksuit pants, turning and returning to the defibrillator, mounted on railings, and punching it twice, causing extensive damage to its heated casing. It was the second attack on the three-year-old Credit Union-sponsored defibrillator in six months.

MSAR spokesman Willie Walsh said: “The device belongs to the town. We just maintain it. Up until last year, we had no issues whatsoever, then two strikes in six months. It’s beyond belief how some idiot can do this to a piece of lifesaving equipment. It’s mindless, reckless vandalism of the highest order.”

The casing has been repaired and the device is fully operational, if required.

The footage has been viewed more than 40,000 times and Mr Walsh said several people have come forward with information, which has been passed on to gardaí. He said he is very hopeful it will all lead to a prosecution.

Mr O’Sullivan, who survived a massive heart attack in Cloghroe, in October 2016, thanks to community first responders using a publicly accessible defibrillator, said the courts should take a very tough stance on those who interfere with, or damage, lifesaving equipment such as defibrillators and lifebuoys.

“They should face a hefty fine, at the very least. They are putting lives at risk. It’s as serious as that. But the courts should also make these guys spend a week with the emergency services or with volunteers like Mallow SAR, to see what they do with the equipment they have. And maybe they should be made do a course on how to use a defibrillator. Maybe that would be a better punishment.”

Gardaí confirmed that they are investigating a criminal damage incident in the Mallow area: “No arrests have been made. The investigation is ongoing.”


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