Shaun Looks Back Over His Experience With AANI

It was a bright Sunday afternoon on 20th August 2017, when Shaun Attwood (55) was enjoying a leisurely motorbike ride through the County Down countryside.

Then in an instant, a tragic accident meant that his onward journey would be by air rather than road.

After a relaxing day touring on his motorbike in the sunshine, Shaun was making his way back home to Newcastle County Down from Newry at approximately 3.45pm. He was aware of the junction on the narrow Bog Road as he had driven through there many times before. He therefore slowed down and approached with caution… but that wouldn’t prepare him for what was next to happen.

Shaun hit a car which had pulled out into his path without warning and was catapulted onto the windscreen then bounced backwards and landed on his back in the middle of the road.

Shaun remained conscious throughout and recalls what happened next. He said: “My initial instinct was to take a deep breath and see where I was. I could move my hands and feet which I knew was a good sign, but the pain was already starting to kick in.

“My helmet stayed intact but I knew not to move my head. I could feel tingling down the left hand side of my face and knew that my back and arm were very badly damaged.  I know that without the services of the air ambulance and the medical team, I just wouldn’t have recovered as well as I have. I’m so grateful and would encourage people to do what they can to support AANI.  It is a fantastic charity. You just never know… it could be you next they are flying to hospital.“

Within a few minutes a local man, who happened to be a first responder for the NI Fire and Rescue Service, stopped at the scene and called 999. The police and the fast response vehicle from Newcastle were on the scene very quickly and after an initial assessment, they soon established that the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) was necessary to transport Shaun’s who was severely physically traumatised to hospital.

Shaun Attwood from Newcastle who suffered a serious road traffic injury in 2017 was assisted by the AANI team and flown to the trauma centre in Belfast.

He sustained extensive injuries including compression of his L3 vertebrae, a badly damaged wrist which was sitting in the wrong direction, a broken right arm in several places and a torn cruciate ligament in his knee. He lives by the motto, dress for the slide, not the ride and had been wearing a one piece protective leather suit, a compression vest and leggings, as well as protective gloves and boots and a sturdy helmet, which left a sizeable dent in the windscreen of the car on impact.

The air ambulance was on the scene in less than 15 minutes, the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) team Dr Rob Barclay and Paramedic David McCartney were able to provide pre-hospital care at the scene prior to Shaun being airlifted to Belfast.  Dr Barclay said: “Collisions involving motorcyclists always have the potential to be challenging.  When we arrived, Shaun was in significant pain and we were concerned about the potential for serious injury.  Working closely with the ambulance crew, we were able to provide enhanced care and pain relief for Shaun and then transfer him to the regional trauma centre.”

By 8.30am the following morning, Shaun was being prepared for theatre and a lengthy operation which would see him receiving two plates, one pin and a number of screws in his right wrist and arm. He has permanently damaged his vertebrae and may need further surgery on his arm, but in spite of the severity of his injuries, he is making a recovery with the help of ongoing physiotherapy.

Dr Barclay said: “It was fantastic to meet with Shaun again recently and see him recovering so well from his injuries, and a privilege to be part of the team of first responders, NIAS and Air Ambulance NIHEMS crews who provided his initial care.”

At his earliest opportunity, Shaun wanted to volunteer with AANI Charity to say thank you, and he wanted to stay in touch and do what he could to help. He now considers himself a ‘customer’ of AANI and volunteering for them has given him the chance to show gratitude and tell his story, demonstrating the amazing efforts of the medical team and the invaluable service provided by the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland charity.

Dr Barclay added: “Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) is a local charity providing the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for Northern Ireland, together with our partners at the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS). The service brings urgent medical assistance to anywhere in the province, operating seven days a week for 12 hours per day. It can get to anywhere in Northern Ireland in approximately twenty-five minutes.

Our very first mission was to provide emergency care for eleven-year-old Conor from County Down. Conor was injured in a farm vehicle accident and after being treated on site was flown to Belfast in a fraction of the time it would have taken by road. Since then the air ambulance has been tasked to over 520 incidents.

The AANI service has a doctor / paramedic service which benefits those whose lives are at serious risk following significant injury or trauma. Effectively the service brings emergency hospital care direct to the casualty in a short time especially in less accessible areas such as mountains and remote country areas.

Before the start of AANI operations in July 2017, Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK without an emergency helicopter service, and its launch marked the culmination of a twelve-year campaign backed by the public and driven by key individuals throughout that period.

The primary operations base is at Maze Long Kesh with a backup aircraft based at St Angelo Airport in Enniskillen. The speed of the service is improving outcomes and saving lives. The service is tasked to an incident on average every day. And AANI can reach any part of Northern Ireland in 20 minutes from its bases at the Maze  or Enniskillen.

AANI works in partnership with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, which provide the medical teams of a doctor and paramedic on board its helicopter. This is valuable is in improving long-term outcomes for patients by transporting hospital ER-level treatment to trauma casualties on site in minutes, as well as reducing the travel time for the transfer of casualties to hospital.

Air Ambulance NI needs to raise £2million each year to maintain this service so public donations are always crucial.

If you would like to donate, organise an event or could spare some time volunteering, please contact Air Ambulance NI by email at: or call 028 9262 2677.