William praises air ambulance crews at charity reception

7 November 2019, 22:24 | Updated: 7 November 2019, 22:32

The Duke of Cambridge
The Duke of Cambridge attends Air Ambulance gala. Picture: PA

The Duke of Cambridge became patron of the London Air Ambulance’s 30th anniversary charity campaign in January.

The Duke of Cambridge paid tribute to London Air Ambulance (LAA) crew members and those whose lives they have saved at a celebratory event in London on Thursday.

William spoke at an intimate reception at the Rosewood London hotel to around 30 people including helicopter paramedics, consultants and supporters of the charity, which was established in 1989.

In January this year he became patron of LAA’s 30th anniversary campaign, Thirty Years Saving Lives, which has raised £1 million for helipad facilities and mental health support for crew members.

As he greeted paramedics wearing their bright orange uniforms at the black-tie reception, the Duke joked: “Is this a brand new kit?”

He added: “Are you going to dinner like this? We feel safe when you’re here.”

William then addressed some 100 guests at a formal dinner.

Wearing a bow tie and a poppy on the lapel of his black tuxedo, he told guests he was “delighted to become patron” for the charity and, as an ex-air ambulance pilot himself, he recognised London as a difficult city for their operations.

The Duke, who worked as a pilot for East Anglian Air Ambulance for two years until 2017, said: “The city is congested and landing space is in short supply.

“I know first-hand the trauma team working in London Air Ambulance are world-class – even if their banter isn’t quite up to the same level.

“Their care can mean the difference between life and death, between recovery and life-long disability.

“They show remarkable resilience and strength in the face of tragedies that they come across every day.”

He added: “When I became patron in January, one of the targets was to raise at least £1 million.

“I am very proud that nine months later, this target has been met.”

The duke speaks with musician Eric Clapton
The duke speaks with musician Eric Clapton (Chris Jackson/PA)

Former London Air Ambulance patient Yair Shahar said crews saved his life when he was involved in a near-fatal road accident less than a year after undergoing heart surgery.

Mr Shahar, 50, who attended the reception with his wife Yael , 47, said: “I was cycling when I got hit by a car.

“They treated me on the side of the road. I had a crushed pelvis and massive internal bleeding.

“I spent three and a half months in hospital. I’m here with my wife – most people don’t realise how these things affect family and friends.”

Mrs Shahar said LAA crews provided support to the whole family.

She said: “They saved his life, but just keeping in touch with us was so important.

“It’s not just about the minutes it took to save his life – the day after the accident they came to see him at his bedside, and they were the first to explain exactly what happened.”

The charity, which operates 365 days a year, serves 10 million people living in the capital city.

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