PARAMEDICS were forced to flag down a passing furniture van to get a badly injured cyclist to hospital when health bosses ran out of ambulances.
A response car arrived at the notorious junction of Church Hill and Rectory Lane in Loughton within minutes of the incident on Monday morning.
They found the cyclist, a man in his 30s from Buckhurst Hill, with a broken leg and injuries to his pelvis and abdomen, and called for an ambulance to take him to hospital.
As the minutes ticked by, the paramedics learned the ambulance had been diverted to another call, and demanded an air ambulance be sent to the scene.
But the closest place it could land was in Hillyfields, nearly a quarter of a mile away.
Kirk Jeakins, 40, a director of JA Coles removals, was making a delivery on behalf of Loughton tycoon Lord Sugar at the corner of Rectory Lane when he was asked to help out.
He said: “The police officer came over and asked if they could use our vehicle.
“We were in the middle of something but I couldn’t say no.”
Nearly an hour after the accident, Mr Jeakins helped transfer the patient into the back of his lorry, using the lift usually reserved for crates.
“So I was the driver that took him down and helped stretcher him to the helicopter,” he said.
“We just got on with it.”
Mr Jeakins, who lives in Ilford, said he had never heard of a similar incident in his 22 years in the removals industry.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” he added.
“Say you get down there and they guy died or whatever. The name’s all over the vehicle.
“It was a bit sticky. We’d got an audience on the field.
“The paramedics, they weren’t happy at all, because they are making cuts – they were saying that to me when I put him in the helicopter.
“One said ‘I’m going to go to the chief executive and tell him that we asked you to help us out’.”
Residents and business owners began calling for safer crossings at the busy junction in 2010, when 76-year-old Walter Morris died after being struck by a bus on Church Hill.
Campaigner Brian Dean, 67, of Hillyfields, witnessed the aftermath of Monday’s incident.
He said: “He looked in quite a bad way. He was laid up on the pavement and they’d got a drip in him and a member of the public was holding it up.
“You’ve got a double roundabout and nobody knows the right of way. It’s been an accident waiting to happen.”
A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said crews often commandeered vehicles to help transport patients to waiting helicopters.
“We do things like that if we can’t get the patient physically to where the air ambulance lands,” he said.
A spokeswoman added: “Cuts have not and are not being made to the ambulance service.
“This rumour has possibly come from the fact that we are revising rotas to put resources in more where and when they are needed.
“But this does not equate to cuts overall, just less vehicles at times and places of low need and more at times and places of more need to balance resources within a tight budget.”