A140 fear that grips rescue doctor

EVERY time he gets an emergency call to the A140, Dr Andy Mason's stomach churns in terror because he fears the accident could involve a member of his own family.

By James Fraser

EVERY time he gets an emergency call to the A140, Dr Andy Mason's stomach churns in terror because he fears the accident could involve a member of his own family.

Any call to the notorious A140 is going to affect someone's family, changing their lives forever, and Dr Mason is all too aware that the carnage will continue until drastic changes are made.

The Suffolk Accident Rescue Service doctor knows his own loved ones use the killer road regularly and he never knows who he is driving off to give what is quite often life-saving medical help to.

Dr Mason, one of the county's superhero paramedics, deals with the sharp end of the killer A140 all too frequently and whole-heartedly supports The Evening Star's campaign to make it safe.

Every time the call goes out to attend a crash on the A140, Dr Mason says: "Oh no, not again."

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He has been a member of the life-saving SARS team for 28 years and blasted the road as "inadequate" and he believes that the only way to make it safe is to dual it.

Dr Mason, whose patch includes the dire Ipswich to Norwich route, said that he regarded the A140 as one of the most dangerous stretches of roads he has to deal with - and called for the A140 to be dualled.

Today the emergency doctor, who lives in Norton, near Stowmarket, told the Star of his terror that his family may have been involved in a car smash whenever he hears there has been an accident on a stretch of road he knows they use regularly.

"On occasion I've had calls to incidents on stretches where I know my family often drive, " he said. "I know immediately I feel different. I become extremely worried and often turn up in a worse state than some of the casualties."

But accident victims can always count on his professional dedication and care. Dr Mason, who specialises in ensuring crash victims can breathe in traumatic situations, regularly attends scenes of carnage that no one would ever wish to witness.

"I would consider the stretch of the A140 from Diss to the A14 junction at Coddenham as one of most dangerous stretches of road that I have to deal with.

Reports on fatal accidents and the A140 victims who sadly were beyond his care are a constant, haunting reminder.

"I was going through my reports for coroners and it was frightening to see that every year that I had written a report on someone who had died or who had been involved in a serious accident on that road," he said, adding that dualling the road is the only answer.

"I'm a great believer in keeping fast-moving traffic on separate carriageways, particularly where there's a major road and a large number of HGVs. I accept the arguments from environmental lobby and residents but people who live on roads like this where outside your front door there's death and mayhem - it's traumatic for the local people as well.

"It's a bit unfashionable and I accept the arguments, but I'm the one at the sharp end dealing the consequences of the A140 which is inadequate for the type and volume of the traffic. Its a heart-sink road. Every time my bleep goes off or the controller asks me to go to a serious accident on the A140 I think 'Oh no, not again.'"

It was the quick actions of Dr Mason that saved the life of Stonham Aspal grandfather Brian Baker, 59, who suffered critical head and face injuries after his car collided with a lorry at Coddenham in August, 2000. He is still undergoing painful operations to right his badly injured face.

Every second is vital, said Dr Mason - which is why the Star last year ploughed more than £30,000 SARS appeal cash into making sure the unique emergency service has the latest life-saving equipment such as the £2,200 breath-monitoring capnograph

"Air way management is the number one priority," he said. "Without an airway, a patient's brain begins to die within four minutes. When it is completely blocked, within eight minutes the patient is dead.

"Paramedics [from the East Anglian Ambulance Service] do a fantastic job but there are still techniques, equipment and drugs which they don't have but I do that can augment their skills and treatment of patients."

The Evening Star launched its Make the A140 Safe Campaign to push for new safety measures and changes in reckless driver behaviour to cut the shocking toll of 79 lives lost in the past 20 years.

Suffolk County Council took over responsibility for the road from the Highways Agency in May last year. They are preparing to consult motorists and residents along teh route over what needs to be done with £1.3m that has been set aside for work on the A140, as well as the northern part of the A12 to Lowestoft.

The Star, along with its sister paper the Norwich Evening News, has vowed to watch and cajole them every inch of the way.