Mechanic stays in garage through lockdown to keep blood bikes on the road

Honiton car mechanic Paul Richards

Honiton car mechanic Paul Richards stayed in his garage workshop throughout lockdown so he could service and maintain Devon Freewheelers' emergency vehicles - Credit: Devon Freewheelers

A big-hearted car mechanic from Honiton lived round the clock in his garage for three months to help the Devon Freewheelers continue operating through the pandemic. 

The life-saving charity whose blood bikes support the NHS, has hailed selfless Paul Richards who in March 2020 created a micro flat above his Heathpark Industrial Estate garage, staying on site 24/7 to keep the charity’s vehicles on the road throughout the first lockdown. 

And the Devon Freewheelers also heaped praise on windscreen repairman Andy Hutchings, from Exeter, who waived his £160 fee ‘for friends’ when an ambulance needed work. 

Russell Roe, Devon Freewheelers’ deputy chief executive, who is based in Honiton, said the good Samaritans’ generosity had been ‘heart warming’. 

He said: “What Paul and Andy have done to allow us to keep our vehicles on the road so we can continue doing what we do for the community and for the NHS is phenomenal. It’s fantastic. 

“Because if we don’t have the vehicles, we wouldn’t be able to assist. 

“It’s heart warming that there are people out there that are giving their time and money to the charity so we can keep on going for the people who need us.” 

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Garage owner Paul, who repairs the charity’s 4x4 and emergency vehicles, rallied into action last March when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown. 

Using empty office space above Paul Richards Motors, in Footprint Place, the mechanic set up a bed and sitting room in empty office space above the workshop. 

Paul said: “I lived and stayed on site all the way through the first lockdown. I put a bed upstairs and made a micro flat. 

“I wanted to do it for the Devon Freewheelers. They needed somebody they could call on if they had a vehicle break down. 

“As they do such a great good job, I felt somebody should help them.  

“It was difficult sometimes and I felt very alone, but sometimes you have just got to get on and do things that are outside your comfort zone. “

Andy Hutchings, of AAA Car Glass, fitted an ambulance windscreen for free. 

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