Company steps in to get victim home

This article was originally published by The Irish Examiner.

A COMATOSE assault victim is due home in Cork tomorrow after an air ambulance company stepped in to ensure he could make the final leg of a gruelling flight from Australia.

David Keohane, 29, from Ballyvolane in Cork, was viciously assaulted in a Sydney beach resort last month during an apparent robbery.

The flooring contractor, who trained as a telephone counsellor and volunteered with under-privileged children, was left for dead in his adopted home of Coogee Beach on August 9.

His head and facial injuries were so bad that it took police almost 48 hours to identify him. He has since undergone massive facial reconstruction surgery but has been in a medically induced coma since the brutal attack.

His parents Tom and Rita have been at his bedside constantly.

Four weeks after the attack, Tom Keohane said his son is now “a healthy young fella” from the neck down. “It’s from the neck up that the damage was done,” he said.

Medical staff at the Prince of Wales Hospital recently gave the all-clear for David to return to Ireland.

Australian airline Qantas will modify the first-class section of one of its aircraft to accommodate his stretcher, medical equipment and medical staff today.

It will take off from Sydney today bound for London Heathrow.

But the family was devastated when they couldn’t arrange a flight to Cork after Aer Lingus said it was unable to meet David’s needs.

In desperation, his sister, Sinead, made an emotional plea for help on RTÉ’s Liveline programme on Friday.

And David Hall, managing director of Lifeline Ambulances in Co Kildare, stepped in and offered to provide free air ambulance transport for the family from Heathrow to Cork Airport, and road transport to Cork University Hospital.

The air ambulance flight would normally cost close to €16,000 but Mr Hall said he is happy to cover the cost. “David’s family has gone through enough trauma and expense, and they have enough on their plate without worrying about the logistics of the final leg of the journey. It’s what we do,” he said.

A fund has been set up to help with the transportation and medical bills associated with bringing David home — estimated to be close to €100,000.

A fundraiser is planned for the Commons Inn in Blackpool for September 20.

A similar event, held last week in Australia and attended by former Kerry footballer Tadhg Kennelly and Australian Idol winner Damien Leith, raised more than €25,000.

Donations can be made to the David Keohane Recovery Fund, Ulster Bank account number 10152307.