A new emergency helicopter landing pad is being built in a remote village in memory of a teenage flu victim with the help of donations from actor Hugh Grant.
Bethany Walker died aged 18 in 2018 after contracting flu which developed into sepsis.
She was airlifted from the remote west Highland village of Applecross to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment in 34 minutes, a journey that usually takes two hours by road.
The helicopter which flew her to hospital had to land in the village pub’s car park which was the only empty space available at the time.
Despite the best efforts of medical staff, Bethany’s condition worsened and she died in hospital.
Bethany’s mother, Heather Teale, was determined to build a permanent helipad and work has now begun after the money needed was raised.
She established a community fund which raised £15,000, including a donation from Hugh Grant, while £50,000 was donated by Robert Bertram from the HELP Appeal, a charity dedicated to funding helicopter emergency landing pads.
Ms Teale said: “Bethany hoped to become a midwife but sadly, she never got the chance to fulfil her dream, but her commitment to caring for others and saving lives will be reflected in this lasting legacy of a lifesaving helipad.
“In an emergency every minute saved in journey time gives patients a higher chance of survival, but in remote communities like Applecross, the Air Ambulance will be saving hours.
“Thank you to my local community, the HELP Appeal and to Hugh for making this lifesaving helipad a reality.”
The community is building the helipad themselves and it should be operational by the summer.
The new, permanent helipad is located beside the Applecross Fire Station and Community Hall and will be able to accommodate landings around the clock, with state of art lighting used during the hours of darkness.
Hugh Grant said: “Bethany’s legacy of a new helipad will help to save many lives in the future. Congratulations and well done to Heather and the HELP Appeal for making it happen.
“The importance of helipads is often forgotten about, but they are absolutely vital in emergency care along with hospitals and helicopters.
“Without them, patient treatment can be delayed, which can have a devastating impact on survival rates. This is why more are needed across the country.”
Applecross is only accessible via the Bealach Na Ba, a single track road with passing places over the mountains, or by driving on the coast road from Shieldaig and an emergency response by road ambulance, based 18 miles away, can be difficult during adverse weather, or when roads are busy during the tourist season.
Robert Bertram, HELP Appeal’s chief executive said: “Heather’s desire for a permanent, lifesaving helipad is one we fully support. This, plus Bethany’s story, is why we immediately agreed to fund one in Applecross, particularly since it will help both residents and the huge number of tourists that visit every year.
“Waiting for the police to stop road traffic, clear car parks or empty parks or hoping a suitable area will be available for an air ambulance to land, is simply not good enough when loved ones are seriously ill.
“We are doing our best to provide life-saving helipads across the country.”
The Applecross helipad costs £60,000 and £5000 is being reserved for future maintenance.
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