Questions are being asked after two school pupils had to wait almost an hour for help from the emergency services after being hit by a car in Uig.
The girls were knocked down after getting off the school bus at Timsgarry. One of them was left lying in the rain at the side of the road due to a suspected spinal injury.
However despite the local Fire Station being only a matter of minutes away, as well as a local First Responders unit in the area and a Coastguard Team based in Uig, none of these services were deployed.
It took around 55 minutes for the police and ambulance to arrive on the scene. The pupils were then helicoptered to the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway.
Roddy Maclean, the father of one of the injured girls, explained: “The situation was there were two Nicolson School girls who had been knocked down, both children were in a highly distressed state with suspected serious injuries, but there were no traffic calming measures and it was pitch dark.
“I had to dive out onto the road three times to stop traffic, it’s in a 60mph zone. It was an unsafe site.”
He continued: “The Police and the two ambulances arrived and took over the situation doing a fantastic job, of that there is no debate whatsoever, I can not praise their professionalism highly enough and that includes the Coastguard Helicopter Crew.
“However around 55 minutes is an unacceptable amount of time to wait for the services to arrive given the fact that we have, less than 300 metres away, a Fire and Rescue Tender, with all the essential tools that would have made the scene not only safe and comfortable for the injured party and those on site, but also had a professionally trained local crew.
“If those guys had been called they would have been there in a flash and the equipment on the Fire Tender would done so much to make the situation more bearable.”
He also questioned why the local First Responders and the Uig based Coastguard were not mobilised.
Mr Maclean continued: “We have three services based locally who have between them all the vital equipment, personnel, skills and training for such an incident yet they were not called and two injured children had to lie in the cold, wet and darkness of that evening for about 55 minutes until the services arrived from 40 miles away. It just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”
Mr Maclean also questioned the safety of pupils having to cross a main road after getting off the school bus.
“As far as we’re concerned it’s over for us and there is no blame attached,” Mr Maclean said. “My daughter and her friend are ok now, but I’d hate to think of another parent or relative having to wait about 55 minutes in the rain and dark in that situation for the emergency services.”
Uig Councillor Norman MacDonald has also questioned why local services were not mobilized to help.
He explained: “It is one of the most serious incidents we’ve had in Uig for a long time, I can’t remember anything similar. There are about 20 people in the area who are specially trained in these kind of situations. There is a frustration these resources were not used in this instance.”
He continued: “There are also concerns with a reduction in terms of emergency service control rooms that a similar situation could arise again. We need to look to see if the protocols can be changed to make better use of all available resources particularly in rural areas.”
Chief Inspector Gordon Macleod, Area Commander for the Western Isles, said: “Following this incident, I have had an initial discussion with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, here in the Western Isles, to look at current practice and how through greater local collaboration we can better deliver community resilience in the response to incidents and thereby increase community confidence and reassurance in the services available.”
He added: “We are fortunate that across the Western Isles, we have a geographically dispersed provision of Emergency Services that are able to respond to a range of incidents.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “The call was triaged as potentially serious but not life threatening. Police were notified of the incident. Fire Service would normally be contacted if persons were trapped in some way, which was not the case in this instance.”
Meanwhile a Comhairle spokesperson said bus operators have been reminded of the procedures to followed when school children are transferring between buses.
He added: “The Comhairle is also considering the most appropriate locations for transfers to take place. As in any incident of this nature, the Comhairle and its partners will work together to see if there are learning points.”