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Crash survivor backs air ambulance

A woman who was in a coma for three weeks after a motorcycle crash in County Durham is now helping the air ambulance which first flew to her assistance.

Karen O'Connor's life was in the balance after the crash in 2011 and medics initially feared she could be paralysed from the neck down.

The 52-year-old had been thrown from her bike after colliding with a car on the A688 through the village of Stainton Grove, near Barnard Castle.

She was attended to by Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) and although not paralysed in the accident, she faced a long recovery.

"I have no recollection of the accident and my husband knew the first 24 hours could go either way. Now, I want to continue to support the service for as long as I live."

– Karen O'Connor

Karen O'Connor is encouraging new bikers to support the Great North Air Ambulance through her motorcycle training company, which she runs with her husband Ian, in Bishop Auckland.

The academy offers compulsory basic training, a test that is required for all learner riders.

"We want to encourage people to drive safe, while helping to raise money for the charity that saved my life. The air ambulance is all about time - the difference between living and dying. They are a permanent service and we are long-standing supporters."

– Karen O'Connor

Full Report: Calls for air ambulance tax cuts

The Great North Air Ambulance costs millions of pounds a year to run and the charity does it without public or government funding.

Four of the region's MPs now want to help cut those costs by campaigning for tax breaks for the service.

The charity runs three helicopters across Cumbria, North Yorkshire and the North East of England.

The politicians say if it was exempt from VAT on fuel, it would save tens of thousands of pounds.

Katie Oakes has the full report below.


MPs rally support for air ambulance tax cuts

Four of the region's MPs are arguing for tax cuts for the Great North Air Ambulance.

The charity runs three air ambulance helicopters across Cumbria, North Yorkshire and the North East of England without public or government funding.

The politicians are lending their support to a campaign for it to be exempt from VAT on fuel.

Family pay tribute to "wonderful husband and dad" who died in crash

The family of a man from Sunderland who died after his motorbike was involved in a collision have paid tribute to a "wonderful husband and dad".

Neil Hamilton died after his motorbike crashed into a 4x4 vehicle on April 3 on the B6301 near Tow Law.

Neil Hamilton's family lay a wreath at the site of the crash Credit: Durham Police

His wife Christine, and their sons Mark and Christopher, have thanked the public for their support and are appealing for anyone who would like to make a donation to give money to The Great North Air Ambulance.

Christine Hamilton said:

"We are devastated at the loss of a wonderful husband and dad, who is sadly missed by all who knew him. He leaves an emptiness in our hearts and lives that will never be filled."

Mark and Christopher Hamilton said:

"Dad greatly appreciated the work of the air ambulance. As they were also involved at the scene following the incident, anyone who would like to express themselves in our dad's memory, please feel free to make a donation to The Great North Air Ambulance via this link."


Fundraising challenge takes biker group to the edge

A motorcycle group which raised more than £300,000 in little over six years for an air ambulance which covers the North East, North Yorkshire and Cumbria has announced its latest challenges.

Boundary 500 Motorcycle Group will head out on rides covering the 500 mile circumference of the Great North Air Ambulance's Service area.

Riders can take one or two days to complete the journey, which starts and finishes at Kirkleatham Hall in Redcar on June 29.

The route takes in Berwick, Carlisle, Whitehaven, Kendal, York and Scarborough.

There will also be a start and finish point in Cumbria, which is yet to be announced.

The following day, the Boundary 500 Classic Motorcycle Challenge takes in 130 miles around the North Yorkshire Moors.

Biker takes on challenge for charity

A Northumberland motocross biker, who suffered a depressed skull fracture when he was flipped off his bike, is to complete an endurance challenge to raise funds for the air ambulance service which helped to save his life.

Robert Gibb was off-road biking when he hit a stone and was catapulted over the handle bars near to his home in Eachwick.

Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) airlifted him to Newcastle General Hospital where he spent 15 days having four plates fitted in his head following the accident in 2006.

Robert has now pledged his support to GNAAS by signing up for the Clif Bar Lake District 10 peak challenge.

The challenge is a non-stop run and hike over the ten highest peaks in Cumbria's Lake District. The course covers about 73 kilometres with more than 5,600 metres of ascent.

"There is a really good chance I wouldn't be here today if the air ambulance hadn't got to me so quickly.

I was able to get back on my bike again after 10 months and continued to race up until last year. I look forward to completing the gruelling challenge and I hope to raise funds for GNAAS in the process.

I want to thank the surgeons at Newcastle General Hospital, the air ambulance who got to the scene so quickly and everyone who has helped me on my road to recovery."

– Robert Gibb

"We're delighted that Robert is back fit and raising money for us.

It looks to be a very testing challenge so we wish him all the best."

– Mandy Drake, deputy director of fundraising at GNAAS

Pilot saved motorist from floods

Pete Barnes rescuing a motorist at Stanhope Ford

It has been revealed that Captain Pete Barnes, the pilot who died in a helicopter crash in central London this morning, spent time working in the North East.

In 2004 he helped rescue a motorist from a flooded ford in County Durham, while working for the Great North Air Ambulance.

Pete Barnes while working for the Great North Air Ambulance. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

He also flew the Newcastle Traffic & Travel helicopter as the Voice of Metro FM and worked as a helicopter instructor.

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