Ann outside Exeter Cathedral at the launch of the Devon Air Ambulance service 20 years ago.
Image: © Devon Air Ambulance

Air Ambulance celebrates 20 years

The Devon Air Ambulance Trust – which was founded by an Exeter alumna – celebrates its 20th anniversary with a special event on 1 September 2012.

Dr Ann Ralli (then Ann Thomas) set up the Trust following the death of her son Ceri in 1986. Ceri was aged just 18 when he was involved in an accident with a car whilst out on his bicycle miles from Exeter. He sadly died of his injuries soon after arriving at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

When Ann asked the surgeon if anything could have saved him, she was told only an air ambulance. This was because paramedics would have arrived at the accident to administer emergency care sooner, and he would have arrived at hospital more quickly.

Ann said: “I was driven with the thought that at 18 Ceri had not had the chance to do anything with his life; and he himself had been so determined to make a difference and do things for others. He would have said, “But I haven't achieved anything yet.”

“Also, I could not give up the thought that if there had been an air ambulance I would still have my son and my other sons and daughter, their brother. I felt therefore, there should be an air ambulance - I didn't want any other parent to go through what we had, especially if it could be avoided.”

She dedicated the next few years to fundraising and building awareness in order to set up the Trust and on August 27 1992 the first helicopter went into operation. There are now two helicopters operating across the rural county of Devon and so far they have helped thousands of people with life-threatening and serious injuries, clocking up nearly 18,000 individual missions.

Ann (MEd & PhD in Education 2004) will be attending the celebrations to mark the Air Ambulance Trust’s 20th anniversary, alongside the crews, fundraisers and supporters on Saturday 1 September.

Devon Air Ambulance website.

Date: 6 July 2012

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