An investigation has been launched after an ambulance caught fire as it transported an elderly patient to Antrim Area Hospital yesterday.
No-one was injured in the accident, which took place at around 4pm close to the Dunsilly roundabout on the M2. Paramedics pulled the vehicle over to the hard shoulder when they smelled burning and noticed smoke. One of the two-man crew struggled to open the bonnet but was prevented from doing so by smoke. The female patient, who was sitting on a stretcher in the back of the vehicle, was quickly removed and put on a chair on the roadside before a member of the public offered to take her to hospital.
Two fire crews attended the scene but the ambulance was destroyed in the blaze. A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said it was the first such incident in 20 years. He stressed that the patient did not have a serious condition and that a second ambulance was despatched to take her to Antrim hospital.
"The lady was sitting on the hard shoulder for only a minute before several good Samaritans offered to transport her," the spokesman said. "A second ambulance had been called and was only three minutes away. A man driving a van offered to take her and she was accompanied by a paramedic." It is understood the ambulance was around five years old but may have had high mileage. It had responded to a call-out from the Magherafelt area.
The ambulance service said an inquiry had been ordered into the cause of the fire.