A FATHER has spoken of the ‘vital’ work of the air ambulance, which he says saved his life and allowed him to meet his daughter.

Kenn Duffield, of Dorchester , was the first person to be rescued by the service, which launched in 2000.

The father-of-two has spoken out to mark National Air Ambulance Week, which is taking place this week.

He said: “My family and I are firm believers that if it were not for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, I would have died.

“I would not have had the chance to meet my daughter.”

Mr Duffield was riding a motorcycle to his work in Sherborne in March 2000 when he collided with a car and was sent hurtling 26 metres along the road. His wife Kirstin was eight months pregnant at the time.

The accident happened the day before the air ambulance was officially launched, but the life-saving service was scrambled, and Mr Duffield was conveyed within minutes to Dorset County Hospital , where he underwent three full-body blood transfusions.

Because he lost so much blood, the couple believe if he had been conveyed by land ambulance, he would not have survived.

He said: “I was badly battered. A policeman who was at the scene told me later he thought I was dead.”

His right leg was broken at the knee and the femur, and he was kept in hospital for six weeks, during which time, his daughter Becca, now 12, was born. The couple also have a son, 14-year-old Alexander.

Mrs Duffield had been at work, when she received a phone call telling her to go to hospital.

She said: “To be honest, my immediate thought was that he was a stupid idiot. I was heavily pregnant, and had a two-year-old child. It wasn’t the best of timing.”

She added: “Looking back it seemed incredibly calm, but I think, because of my condition, people were keeping me away from the stress of it.

“It was difficult. At the time we did not know if he would lose his leg.”

Doctors managed to save the limb, but it took twelve operations and five years before it was fully functional.

Mr Duffield said his children had grown up knowing the story, and the importance of the service.

Two years ago, aged just 10, Becca raised £400 to mark the 10th anniversary of the accident.

He said: “I think it is astonishing that this is something that is supported solely by donations. So many people, including me, are here because of them and the work they do. Every time I see them flying I stop and think what could have happened.”

Supporting The Service

NATIONAL Air Ambulance Week is part of a national initiative encouraging people to support their local services.

Mr Duffield was the first of 8,999 emergency rescues undertaken by the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. It has been to more than 450 incidents this year.

The charity is appealing for people to donate £10 through their mobile phones, to help pay for the cost of one minute’s flying time.

To donate, send the message DSAA02 £10 to 70070.

For more information on the service, visit www.dsairambulance.org.uk