Facebook and 4X4s help Exmouth ‘snow angels’ get stranded strangers to hospital

PUBLISHED: 11:09 07 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:17 07 March 2018

Andy Fairbanks outside the RD&E entrance. Ref exe 10 18TI 8857. Picture: Terry Ife

Andy Fairbanks outside the RD&E entrance. Ref exe 10 18TI 8857. Picture: Terry Ife

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Stranded dialysis patients, a woman with a broken arm and ‘exhausted’ doctors and nurses were among those rescued last week by Exmouth’s 4X4 ‘snow angels’ coordinated via Facebook.

One of Andy Fairbanks's vehicles mid-rescue during last week's adverse weather. Picture by Andy Fairbanks.One of Andy Fairbanks's vehicles mid-rescue during last week's adverse weather. Picture by Andy Fairbanks.

Storm Emma’s historically heavy snow recently stranded scores of motorists across East Devon.

One area affected badly was the A376, vital for travelling between Exmouth and Exeter, including those en-route to Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

A sudden and worsening snowstorm on Thursday afternoon meant many staff and patients of the hospital were left stranded, unable to get home.

A 4X4 waits outside Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital during in last week's snow rescue. Picture by Andy Fairbanks.A 4X4 waits outside Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital during in last week's snow rescue. Picture by Andy Fairbanks.

But help was at hand in the form of a fleet of ‘angels’ - as they have since been dubbed on Facebook - local people using their 4X4s to aid those in trouble.

One of these was Andy Fairbanks, from Exmouth, who mobilised his security company’s fleet of 4X4s after becoming aware of the emergency unfolding.

He said: “I prioritised NHS and anyone who was really desperate – I started driving renal patients who hadn’t done their dialysis.

“In Budleigh, there was an 89 year-old gentleman who hadn’t been out for two days. He was on dialysis and needed to get to the renal clinic. He was meant to go in every three or four days, and hadn’t been for three days.

Mr Fairbanks posted an appeal on Facebook, receiving around 3,400 reactions and more than 220 shares, which he believes played a vital role in ensuring none of the town’s vulnerable were missed.

He said: “Somebody with a life-threatening condition would have been forgotten about. People would have been missed because a lot of people don’t have a voice, for example the elderly.”

Mr Fairbanks described seeing ‘exhausted’ doctors, working long after the end of their shift as they waited to be relieved by stranded colleagues.

Others rescued included a woman who had a broken arm and two theatre nurses carrying suitcases - ready for the long haul.

He said: “I have never seen that before – an entire community coming together as one group, people checking on people as they had never done before.”

In a bid to reconise the efforts of people in the community who got involved in last week’s 4X4-led effort, Annie Pentelow, from Exmouth, appealed on social media to identify and thank the ‘snow angels’.

Her list so far includes: Andy Fairbanks, Bex Sherriff, Ian Dunstan, Earl Dibbles Junior, Lee Brockway, Gareth Blair, Karl kastner, Scott and Sharon Drew, Dan Atkinson, Lindon and Jasmin Cordy, Dylan Retter, Toby Read, Laurence Pearcey, Nigel Pearce, Steve Satchell, Jake Hamilton, Bradley Turner, Grant hooper, Deano Gsll, Ben Corser, Harry Walker, Adam Bellchamber, Patric Fairbanks, Nick Evans, Levi Hamilton, John Hiles, Rich Tuckett, Kye Candy, Matt Carter and his friend from Greendale, Michael Sprague, Daz Notman, Craig Morgan, Andy Hughes, Chris Witkiss, Keith Hoppins, Megan Sharland, Nick Newman, Peter Belbaum, Gareth Turner, George Foulson, Lawrence Pearson, Kevin Hodge, Ben Willis, John Plastow, David Slater, Anthony Garrett and Ruth Carter.

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