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Air ambulance marks 50th anniversary

As Victoria celebrates half a century of air ambulance support, the Goulburn Valley has been reminded how important the service is.

FIONA BROOM November 19, 2012 4:10am

As Victoria celebrates half a century of air ambulance support, the Goulburn Valley has been reminded how important the service is.

A 63-year-old man crushed by a hay bale at his Cobram farm was airlifted to The Alfred Hospital on Friday with internal injuries.

The farmer is one of thousands who will use Air Ambulance Victoria’s services this year.

The region’s connection with the service dates back to its very first day of operation on May 8, 1962, when Shepparton’s Peter Connell became its first patient.

He was driving home to Yarrawonga from work on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme to visit his pregnant wife when his car left the road at Corryong and fell 8m.

He was flown in Air Ambulance Victoria’s first plane to the Austin Hospital.

At an official celebration yesterday at Essendon Airport, Victorian Health Minister David Davis said Air Ambulance Victoria was the oldest medical helicopter service in Australia — and one of the oldest in the world.

Now, Air Ambulance Victoria operates five emergency response helicopters and four fixed-wing planes.

Last year the service transported more than 1800 patients by helicopter and nearly 5000 patients by plane.

One of the five helicopters transports patients who need priority transfer between rural hospitals and specialist services in Melbourne.

‘‘Throughout the past five decades, many tens of thousands of lives have been saved by this world-class service,’’ Mr Davis said.

‘‘I would like to recognise and acknowledge the 64 flight paramedics, pilots, navigators and nurses, both current and past, who have made a significant contribution to Air Ambulance Victoria.’’

Mr Davis said it was also important to pay tribute to the nine flight nurses, pilots and patients who died in two incidents in 1970 and 1986.

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