Burning smell from back of vehicle, wind damage, and spluttering engines – ambulance breakdowns from last year detailed

Ambulances broke down en route to nineteen emergency calls last year with one damaged by severe gusts of wind while another crew reported a smell of burning from the back of their vehicle.

In one incident in Sligo, the engine was reported to have “given up” while in two cases, the ambulance lost “all power” while responding to a call.

In February, a second emergency response crew had to be dispatched after “wind damage to [an] ambulance door” during a callout in Limerick.

Also that month, an ambulance broke down on its way to an emergency call in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

There were three breakdowns in April, one described as a “vehicle issue”, another suspected to have a “power steering belt” fault, and a third logged as “engine spluttering – query airlock”.

Asked about the vehicle breakdowns, a spokeswoman for the National Ambulance Service (NAS) said they represented just a small fraction of the 336,000 emergency calls they dealt with last year.

She said the fleet – made up of critical care and emergency ambulances, intermediate care vehicles, rapid response units, and various support vehicles – had travelled in excess of 24 million kilometres during 2022.

“While any vehicle, particularly those working at design extremes, can and does experience mechanical failure, the NAS has implemented a robust eight-week inspection schedule for all patient carrying vehicles which has significantly improved the performance, safety and reliability of our fleet,” she said.

“Together with a sustained programme of annual investment in fleet replacement, the 366,000 112 or 999 calls only saw nineteen occasions where emergency vehicles suffered punctures, warning lights which had to be investigated or a mechanical issue.”

She added that no patient safety, staff safety, or other road user had been impacted as a consequence of any of the vehicle breakdowns last year.