Tributes have been paid to one of local motorcycling’s best loved personalities after his tragic death at the weekend.
Dr John Hinds, one of the well known ‘flying doctors’ of Irish road racing, crashed during a practice session at the Skerries 100 race on Friday where he was providing medical cover.
He was rushed to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin but died of his injuries on Saturday morning.
The 35-year-old clinician from Tandragee – who had campaigned vigorously for an air ambulance – combined working as a consultant at Craigavon Area Hospital (CAH) with his voluntary role for the Motorcycle Union of Ireland.
Paula Clarke, interim chief executive of the Southern Health Trust, said: “John was a much loved and highly regarded member of the intensive care team as a greatly skilled, dedicated and compassionate doctor whose patients always came first.
“We are all deeply saddened by his tragic and untimely passing and he will be sorely missed.”
A message posted on the official International North West 200 Facebook page echoed those sentiments.
“Everyone at the North West 200 is shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Doctor John Hinds. He was an integral part of our race meeting and never more so than in the last year and his loss will be immeasurable. Our deepest sympathy goes to his partner, family and colleagues.”
Speaking after this year’s North West 200 Doctor John again called for an emergency medical helicopter saying it ‘is a necessity, not a luxury’.
During the races on the north coast, a helicopter was dispatched from County Sligo to attend a serious accident.
Spectator Violet McAfee was transferred to hospital in Belfast when she was struck by a motorcycle that had left the road.
At the time Dr Hinds called the provision of an emergency helicopter ‘a game changer’.
He said: “Those of us who have worked in countries which have an air ambulance can see how game changing it is for victims of major trauma.
“It’s not a luxury, it is essential and it would be cost effective.”
Since the news of Dr. John’s death on Saturday morning a campaign to get an Air Ambulance for Northern Ireland has gathered momentum.
A Change.org petition was set up with more than 26,000 people adding their signatures less than 24 hours after the page was set up.
Jeremy McWilliams and Maria Costello took to social media to encourage others to sign the petition.
Bill Kennedy, Clerk of the Course of the upcoming Armoy Road Races, said it would be a ‘fitting tribute and lasting legacy’ to Dr John if an air ambulance was brought to the province.
“Dr. John was also an expert in dealing with trauma cases and travelled the world training and speaking to others,” said Bill.
“He wanted to see an Air Ambulance in Northern Ireland and it would be a fitting tribute and a lasting legacy to John if his wish would now become reality.”