Fatal ambulance explosion possibly caused by oxygen, says HSE chief

The burned ambulance outside Naas Hospital
The burned ambulance outside Naas Hospital

There is a possibility that an ambulance explosion which killed a patient and injured two ambulance workers was related to the vehicle's oxygen equipment, according to the HSE Director General

A man in his seventies died and another man suffered severe burns after an ambulance went on fire outside the A&E department of Naas General Hospital on Thursday afternoon.

The cause of the fire is not known but it has been confirmed that the patient in the ambulance at the time died. The man, from Kildare, is believed to have been in his late 70s.

Director General of the HSE Tony O'Brien said it appears the fire began at the rear of the ambulance and so would not immediately point towards an engine failure.

He said a possibility is the fire was "oxygen-related".

Speaking outside the hospital, he said: "There is going to be an investigation under way as is normal practice by An Garda Siochana and the Health Safety Authority (HSA) as well as the HSE, but it does appear the fire started towards the rear of the ambulance.

"It does not appear to be related to the engine and currently, without prejudicing that outcome we are currently focusing our concerns on the possibility, and I stress possibility that this was oxygen related".

He said they are confident of a "full recovery" for the ambulance driver who was hospitalised with burns.

"Two members of the ambulance service staff were injured while attempting to save the patient," he continued.

"One of those has been discharged from hospital recently and the second staff member has been transferred to St James Hospital in Dublin where he is receiving care.

"We are confident of a full recovery but he will remain in hospital overnight as a precaution.

"I'm sorry to have to tell you that the patient's death was a direct consequence of the fire. If the fire had not occurred he would have not died. We express our sympathies with the family."

A spokesperson for Kildare Fire Service told both Naas and Newbridge Fire Stations responded to the emergency call on Thursday afternoon.

Four units attended the scene.

The emergency call was received at 13.33 and the first unit arrived at the scene at 13.37.

Chair of National Ambulance Service Representative Association Michael Dixon paid tribute to the workers this evening.

“I suppose first of all our thoughts and prayers are with the gentleman who lost his life in the back of the ambulance and also the crew members from the National Ambulance Service who were injured," he told Kildare FM.