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Simon Le Bon speaks of dramatic sea rescue


Duran Duran star Simon Le Bon has spoken of how a dramatic sea rescue saved his life - and inspired him to campaign for the Air Ambulance Service.

The singer was speaking in London at the launch of the Children's Air Ambulance, a new helicopter service dedicated to transporting critically ill children and babies.

He described his terror after he was trapped in an air pocket under a vessel for an hour alongside five others as he awaited rescue.

Mr Le Bon said: "I had a bad experience about 25 years ago with a boat called Drum which lost its keel during the FastNet Race. I was rescued by the Royal Navy and their helicopter and diver. So I've experienced helicopter rescue first hand.

"I was in an air pocket inside a boat that was upside down for an hour. The first sign of hope was when a Navy diver popped up and said 'I'm going to get you guys out of here'. The relief and elation that the six of us who were inside felt was incredible."

The 54-year-old musician said the rescue team "most definitely" saved someone's life and made him realise helicopter services play an "absolutely crucial" role.

He added: "It might not have been me who drowned but somebody would have drowned on that team."

The Children's Air Ambulance (TCAA) aims to cut travel times by flying ill children from general hospitals to Paediatric Intensive Care Units across England and Wales, as well as transporting specialist paediatric teams to those in need.

It is the country's first dedicated air ambulance for critically ill children and babies, according to organisers, and hopes to start flights early next year and make 400 flights a year.

Mr Le Bon compared the venture to the TV programme Thunderbirds, adding: "I'm from the Thunderbirds generation. We grew up watching Thunderbirds on a Sunday morning.

"As a kid you grew up thinking if anything really bad happens to me International Rescue will come and get me out of it."

"If I'm hanging off a cliff by a tree root or something, there'll be a guy who pops down on a ladder from a helicopter and gets me out of it. And really that's what helicopter rescue services do."

The Children's Air Ambulance relies on charitable donations and needs to raise £545,000 before becoming operational next year. A further £134,000 is required every month to keep the helicopter in flight.

Alex Toft, director of operations and clinical services of The Air Ambulance, called the launch "hugely exciting".

He said: "After months of planning, we're now entering a two-month phase of training and fundraising - our crew will be visiting five children's transfer groups across the UK for familiarisation purposes - before beginning to undertake missions in early 2013."