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Helicopter baby Emma comes of age

PUBLISHED: 17:49 15 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:45 08 July 2010

Emma James has celebrated her 21st birthday - thanks to an air-sea rescue helicopter crew which beat the snowdrifts in the notorious winter of 1987.

And Emma - who was dubbed "the helicopter baby" after her story hit the headlines - is still as grateful as ever to the makeshift air ambulance that whisked her from Watton to hospital in Norwich.

Emma James has celebrated her 21st birthday - thanks to an air-sea rescue helicopter crew which beat the snowdrifts in the notorious winter of 1987.

And Emma - who was dubbed “the helicopter baby” after her story hit the headlines - is still as grateful as ever to the makeshift air ambulance that whisked her from Watton to hospital in Norwich.

It was only after the family discovered that newborn Emma had stopped breathing for two minutes in hospital, and had needed specialist equipment to revive her, that they realised how vital that flight had been.

Emma also hopes the snow stays away this year and that her second child is not early, thus avoiding more birth dramas.

The family has also relived the astonishing series of coincidences surrounding Emma's birth - which also brought a cure for her dad's flying phobia into the bargain!

As well as the chuckles at all the twists, they know the helicopter saved Emma's life.

Emma's mum, Cathy Halfacre - who was already past her due date - was stranded in Watton in January 1987 because of the heavy snow, and it was decided air was the only option to get her to the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

In the days long before East Anglia gained its designated air ambulance, a Sea King crew from RAF Coltishall was alerted. But the rotors on the aircraft were frozen.

So another air-sea rescue was scrambled and flew Mrs Halfacre to the Hewett School in Norwich, before a land ambulance completed the journey to the maternity unit.

But, despite her condition, she was more concerned about her husband Nick, who was petrified of flying.

Mrs Halfacre, who now lives in Toftwood, Dereham, said: “I was a bit apprehensive but I was more worried about Nick. Without the helicopter Emma would not be here now for her 21st birthday.”

Mr Halfacre said: “The snow was awful. I had never seen anything like it. I had never flown before but I just had to go. And once I had been up I was OK, and have flown ever since!”

Emma, who lives at Wymondham with husband Adrian and son Kyran, aged three, is expecting her second baby at the end of February.

“I don't want any snow or any helicopters!” she said. “The whole story does not seem as if it was real and it does not seem like it was me.”

Another player in the story was long-time midwife in Watton Molly Green, who still lives in the town. She had been on hand to help Mrs Halfacre but got called to another patient. She met Emma for the first time last week to wish her a happy birthday.

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