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Happy Birthday to the Kent Air Ambulance

Sorry, this video asset has been removed.

Video and reports by Mary
Graham and Ruth Banks

Its a happy birthday to a charity
which is literally one of Kent’s lifesavers.

The Kent Air Ambulance was founded
in November 1989 and exactly 20 years ago today - on Wednesday,
December 23, 1989 - it made its first life-saving mission.

It was called to free 16-year-old
Michelle Leather and her brother, who lived in Tenterden from a car

Until 2000 the helicopter flew out
of Rochester Airport and in the late 80’s Kent become the second
county in Britain to have an air ambulance.

The 20-year story of the air
ambulance has been dotted with challenges.

Tragedy struck in July 1998 when
the air ambulance crashed in a field near Burham, killing pilot
Graham Budden, 40 and paramedics Mark Darby, 37, and Tony
Richardson, 47.

Amid an enormous wave of public
sympathy, donations began pouring in, and the service was able to
resume just five weeks later when a new helicopter bearing the
initials GMT - for Graham, Mark and Tony - took to the skies.

And in 2000 the air ambulance had
to find a new base in Marden due to changes in the lease at
Rochester Airport.

But there have also been huge
advances, in no small part due to the army of fundraisers across
Kent who remember the charity with donations, or organise wacky
events to keep the lifesaving helicopter in the skies.

They include being able to add
hospital doctors on all flights since 2006, as well as

And advances in medical equipment
and skills mean crews can even perform minor procedures and surgery
in the air.

Blob: In November 2010, KAA staff and patients are cycling
across Cuba to raise money during the charity’s 20th anniversary
year. If you want to join them, contact Emma Getliffe on 01303

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