Lifesaving equipment secured for ice rink after fundraising

Mitchell Turnbull with colleagues from Whitley Bay Ice Rink present a cheque for �1,068 to Hearts with Goals.
Mitchell Turnbull with colleagues from Whitley Bay Ice Rink present a cheque for �1,068 to Hearts with Goals.

A popular attraction is ensuring lives can be saved after installing a vital piece of equipment.

Whitley Bay Ice Rink, on Hillheads Road, has installed a defibrillator after a fundraising drive following an incident on the ice.

On August 17, 2009, 55-year-old former British Ice Hockey professional and North East sporting legend, Alfie Miller, stepped onto Whitley Bay Ice Rink to train for a testimonial match in honour of a fellow ex-player.

Minutes after scoring a goal, Alfie fell ill and was immediately rushed to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital after suffering an exercise-induced heart attack on the ice, saved after effective treatment from paramedics.

Alfie, now 64, believes it is imperative for all sports centres and places which draw crowds to be equipped with a defibrillator.

He said: “It’s not just those playing. Think about the people in the audience. It can happen to anyone and you’d never know – I refused to believe I was having a heart attack, even when it was happening!”

Alfie, who played for Whitley Warriors, England, Great Britain and made it to the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 1989, added: “When I played for the Warriors we had St John Ambulance members at the matches, but in training we just had ourselves.”

Fundraising for the defibrillator was started by Mitchell Turnbull, 39, manager of the Whitley Bay Sharks recreational ice hockey team, which featured members from 18 to 67-years-old, while the rink is used by more than 20 hockey teams, figure skaters and members of the public.

After speaking to Cramlington-based North East Hearts with Goals, set up in 2013 by sisters-in-law Christine Stephenson and Kelly Best to provide defibrillators, he set out to raise £738.

At the end of the fundraising drive, Mitchell had raised £1,068, with the remaining funds going towards the charity’s future work.

He said: “I’m happy to take that responsibility for my team, if you put a defibrillator in a public place, you can’t be afraid to use it, at the end of the day it’s a matter of life or death.”

Fellow teammate and coach, Jerzy Jochimek, 28, added: “It gives us a reassurance, we now have the tools to potentially save a life.”