The Devon Air Ambulance service celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. It has flown almost 25,000 missions and saved tens of thousands of lives since it started in 1992. The milestone is being celebrated with a family day and emergency displays at Topsham today.
The Devon Air Ambulance was started by Dr Ann Ralli after she lost her son Ceri Thomas when he was involved in a car accident while riding his bike on Sidbury Hill. He was just 18 years old.
It took an ambulance an hour to get Ceri to hospital, by which time it was too late to save him. When she asked a doctor if anything might have saved him he said 'only an air ambulance’.
She realised in rural areas it took longer than 'the golden hour', when many patients can be saved, for an ambulance to reach a hospital by road.
Ann spent six years raising money to launch the service which cost £500,000 to set up. With two helicopters it now costs £5.5 million a year to run all through money raised from the public.