Emergency Service Hero of the Year

Station Officer Sammy Nicholl with his Derry Journal Emergency Services Hero of the Year Award
Station Officer Sammy Nicholl with his Derry Journal Emergency Services Hero of the Year Award

Congratulations to Sammy Nicholl who, last weekend, received the Derry Journals Emergency Services Hero of the Year.

Sammy has faithfully served the people of Derry for over 35 years in various roles within the Ambulance Service. Sammy’s long and varied service as an Ambulanceman, Leading Ambulance Person, Control Officer, Paramedic and lately, Station Officer has impacted on the lives and wellbeing, from cradle to grave, of literally hundreds, probably thousands of members of the community where he lives. Sammy has had an unstinting, dedicated and hard working approach to Ambulance work in all its guises and often in an unrecognised way. Sammy has been involved in responding to many incidents over the years, whether they be multi-casualty major incidents or those where he dealt with individual patients in a caring and sensitive manner in their time of need. Sammy is always a willing volunteer to put himself forward when there is a need and has become a frequent face seen at many of the large scale events that have taken place over recent years, as he provides support to their management and public safety. As a Station Officer, Sammy currently manages all the ambulance personnel, facilities and ambulance vehicles in Derry and Limavady but can also be seen still responding to calls from the public when the need arises.

Outstanding Bravery Award Nominees (L-R) Seamus McAllister, Cormac McIvor, Pronsias Doran, Eoin Lyons and John McClintock (not pictured).
Outstanding Bravery Award Nominees (L-R) Seamus McAllister, Cormac McIvor, Pronsias Doran, Eoin Lyons and John McClintock (not pictured).

We should also give a special mention to our nominees for a special bravery award.

As you take on a new job you would normally expect your training to ease you into things gently. Not so for Proinsias Doran, Eoin Lyons and Cormac McIvor who while on their Emergency Driving Course with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service were pressed into action quicker than they could have imagined.

On a demo drive with Divisional Training Officer, Seamus McAllister, they were approaching the Foyle bridge when they saw a build-up of traffic. As they were waiting in the queue they noticed a bit of a commotion and a young male on the wrong side of the safety railings. A couple of members of the public were trying desperately to hold on to him but he was fighting hard. The new recruits ran up to the scene and were able to lend a fresh pair of hands to assist the tiring limbs of the passers by. Still the young man fought and one of the team ran to the vehicle to get straps which are usually used for securing people to a spinal board. The team was joined at this stage by SO John McClintock. With these straps they were able to secure him, with the help of another paramedic who had arrived on scene, to the railings so that if anyone lost their grip he would still be safe.
The strong caring arms of the ambulance staff were sending a message to him that they were not going to let him go, they were there to care for him at that moment when he felt helpless – he was not alone and as they talked to him he became more settled and willing to listen.

The PSNI arrived and were able to secure him to the bridge as extra insurance against slipping. The longer he was secure, the more chance the team had to talk to him and win his trust. Eventually he stepped over the railings to safety.

Without doubt the initial actions of the unknown members of the public played a major role in saving this man’s life as they bought the time required for the new NIAS trainees to arrive on scene and take over.

The team were pipped for the award by the heroic actions of Davitt Walsh, a member of the public, who jumped in to try and save a family as their car slipped into the water at Buncrana. But all in all it was a proud night for NIAS in the west at the awards ceremony.

Well done everyone.