Tycoon’s donation funds air ambulance visitor centre after crash rescue

A businessman who was left clinging to life in the wreckage of a horror helicopter crash in Shropshire has shown his gratitude to the air ambulance service that saved him.

Former England rugby captain Mike Tindall and Andy Ruhan, at Strensham Airbase, to open an education and visitors centre
Former England rugby captain Mike Tindall and Andy Ruhan, at Strensham Airbase, to open an education and visitors centre

West Midland tycoon Andy Ruhan needed seven major operations after his Robinson R44 suddenly lost power and plummeted 200 feet into a field in Woofferton, near Ludlow, in 2002.

Eleven years on, Mr Ruhan thanked those who saved his life by donating a five figure sum to an education and visitor centre for the charity, which operates solely on the generosity of public donations.

The official ribbon cutting took place on Thursday at the service’s Strensham airbase, in Worcestershire, and the businessman was joined by England rugby star Mike Tindall, an ambassador for the air ambulance.

Mr Ruhan, who runs London-based investment firm Bridgehouse Capital, said he would not be alive today were it not for the vital work of the Midlands Air Ambulance, which was first on the scene and provided immediate life-saving care.

Mr Ruhan, said: “Had it not been for the rapid response of the air ambulance and the life-saving care I received at the scene of the crash I may well have not survived.

“We all take this wonderful life-saving service for granted and it is only in our hour of need that we truly appreciate the amazing work of the air ambulance and their dedicated staff. The pilots, paramedics and doctors who work on this crucial life-saving service are truly incredible people.”

Despite having 111 fractures, Mr Ruhan crawled over two fields from the mangled wreckage of his helicopter, which landed just yards from the A49/A56 junction at Salwey Arms, to raise the alarm.

He was airlifted to Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham but his injuries were so severe that it was “touch and go” as to whether he would survive the fourteen-hour surgery.

Former England rugby captain Mr Tindall, who is married to the Queen’s grand-daughter Zara Phillips, also paid tribute to the work of the charity.

Mr Tindall, who plays for outside centre for Gloucester said: “I have huge respect for what they are doing. They are making decisions which can save people’s lives in a matter of seconds that is something I definitely would not be able to do.”

Tindall said the experience of the former England prop Matt Hampson, who was left paralysed from the neck down following a rugby training accident, highlighted the dangers faced by all sportsmen and the importance of having a service such as the air ambulance.

“Charities such as this are very dear to the heart of most sportsmen,” he said.

“I have heard about numerous cases where the air ambulance has helped. It’s not always high-profile, it is often just ordinary people playing rugby with their friends, but it’s all the same.”

Tindall said many people were unaware that the charity, which serves the whole of the West Midlands from its three bases at Strensham, RAF Cosford, near Wolverhampton, and Tatenhall in Staffordshire, was funded entirely through voluntary donations, and hoped his work would raise its profile.

Midland’s Air Ambulance Charity’s CEO Hanna Sebright said at the launch: “We are truly grateful for the personal donation made by Andy Ruhan which has funded our new education centre.”

Fundraising director Jason Levy added: “Amongst other things, it will help educate young children on the life-saving work of the charity, the importance of staying safe and first aid.

“It will have on display specialist equipment such as flight suits, helmets and vital medical equipment.”