Air ambulance disrupts Hampden games

CALLS have been made for a review of emergency aircraft landing venues after three Hampden Football Netball League matches were disrupted when an ambulance helicopter dropped in at Camperdown’s Leura Oval on Saturday.

North Warrnambool Eagles reserves players took the opportunity for an unusual team photo in front of the HEMS 4 emergency helicopter after it landed on Leura Oval, Camperdown. Picture: Scott Buck

North Warrnambool Eagles reserves players took the opportunity for an unusual team photo in front of the HEMS 4 emergency helicopter after it landed on Leura Oval, Camperdown. Picture: Scott Buck

Some observers have questioned why other locations were not used, but Ambulance Victoria said the oval was the official designated site and the nearby showgrounds site was too boggy.

Football action was unexpectedly shut down about 10.30am when a local police officer arrived to announce a helicopter would be landing for an urgent medical transfer between hospitals.

It remained off limits until almost 1pm requiring several impromptu meetings between officials, players and umpires to reschedule the program.

The under 18½ match between North Warrnambool Eagles and Camperdown was called off early in the second quarter and points were split between the teams to be recorded as a draw.

Then the reserves match was shortened to 15-minute quarters and the seniors started 15 minutes later than scheduled.

Camperdown Football Netball Club president Rob Van den Eynde told The Standard yesterday the unusual delay raised the need to have fresh talks between stakeholders.

“We absolutely appreciate the importance of putting medical emergencies first and have no grievances against the ambulance service, but I think the disruption raises a good discussion point,” he said.

“As president of the club I’d like to suggest a meeting between the Leura Oval committee of management, police, ambulance and shire representatives.

“Landing venues were discussed about five years ago, let’s revisit the issue.

“We certainly recognise the oval is the best for night landings because of the lights, but there are various other sites that could be tested for daytime suitability.”

Ambulance air operations manager Anthony De Wit said Leura Oval was the designated helicopter landing site at Camperdown because it was safe and accessible.

“The showgrounds is an alternative landing site at times, however, Saturday’s helicopter crew was advised by local ambulance and police crews that vehicles would have difficulty accessing the helicopter at the showgrounds due to muddy conditions,” he said.

“While it was not our intention to disrupt a football game, our priority was a patient in urgent need of transport to hospital and the oval was the most appropriate place to land and enable this patient to be transported safely.”

Mr Van den Eynde said Camperdown racecourse, the saleyards parking area, Russell Mockridge Park, Mercy Regional College oval and Camperdown College oval could also be considered.

“I appreciated the understanding and co-operation by spectators, players and officials from the two clubs and Hampden league on Saturday,” he said.

“There would have been about 700 people at Leura Oval and netballers had a bumper crowd while the football was delayed.

“I reckon about 10 to 15 phone calls were made to league officials to make sure we were doing the right thing.”

Portland’s winter solstice fun run yesterday morning was also slightly affected when the start/finish line had to be adjusted to allow for an ambulance helicopter at the Ploughed Field designated airstrip.

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