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New emergency helicopter landing pad in Highland village will be ‘Bethany’s legacy’

Heather Teale, the mother of Bethany Walker who died of flu which developed into sepsis.
Heather Teale, the mother of Bethany Walker who died of flu which developed into sepsis.

A new emergency helicopter landing pad is being built in a remote village in memory of a teenage flu victim with the help of donations from people including actor Hugh Grant.

Bethany Walker died in 2018 after contracting flu, which developed into sepsis. She was just 18.

She was airlifted from Applecross to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment in 34 minutes, a journey that usually takes two hours by road.

The helicopter which flew her to hospital had to land in the village pub’s car park which was the only empty space available at the time.

Despite the best efforts of medical staff, Bethany’s condition worsened and she died in hospital.

‘Thank you to my local community’

Bethany’s mother, Heather Teale, was determined to build a permanent helipad and work has now begun after the money needed was raised.

She established a community fund which raised £15,000, including a donation from Hugh Grant, while £50,000 was donated by Robert Bertram from the Help Appeal, a charity dedicated to funding helicopter emergency landing pads.

Ms Teale said: “Bethany hoped to become a midwife but, sadly, she never got the chance to fulfil her dream, but her commitment to caring for others and saving lives will be reflected in this lasting legacy of a life-saving helipad.

“In an emergency, every minute saved in journey time gives patients a higher chance of survival, but in remote communities like Applecross, the air ambulance will be saving hours.

“Thank you to my local community, the Help Appeal and to Hugh for making this life-saving helipad a reality.”

Bethany Walker.

The community is building the helipad themselves and it should be operational by the summer.

It is located beside the Applecross fire station and community hall and will be able to accommodate landings round-the-clock, with state-of-the-art lighting used during the hours of darkness.

Throwing his support behind the campaign, Love Actually, Bridget Jones and Paddington star Hugh Grant said: “Bethany’s legacy of a new helipad will help to save many lives in the future. Congratulations and well done to Heather and the Help Appeal for making it happen.

Hugh Grant

“The importance of helipads is often forgotten about, but they are absolutely vital in emergency care along with hospitals and helicopters.

“Without them, patient treatment can be delayed, which can have a devastating impact on survival rates. This is why more are needed across the country.”

Applecross is only accessible via the Bealach Na Ba, a single-track road with passing places over the mountains, or by driving on the coast road from Shieldaig and an emergency response by road ambulance, based 18 miles away, can be difficult during adverse weather, or when roads are busy during the tourist season.

A motorhome parked at the side of the road near Bealach na Ba.

Robert Bertram, Help Appeal’s chief executive, said: “Heather’s desire for a permanent, life-saving helipad is one we fully support.

“This, plus Bethany’s story, is why we immediately agreed to fund one in Applecross.”

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