NEARLY 100 Hampshire paramedics turned out to pay their last respects to a much-loved former colleague.

Ernest ‘Ernie’ Hatcher died in January at the age of 71, and his funeral was held at All Saints Church, Eastleigh.

More than 230 people, including 90 South Central Ambulance Service staff, attended yesterday’s service.

The funeral courtage was led to the church by a paramedic motorcycle, and ambulance men and women, many of whom Ernie had helped to train and who formed a guard of honour outside the church.

Paul Jeffries, who worked with Ernie, told the Echo: “Ernie was a pillar of our service.

“He was a hard-working, conscientious member of staff who could be relied on to give an excellent service to our staff and patients.

“Most people you talk to will tell you that he liked to talk a lot, and will be greatly missed by everyone.

“He was the sort of person who knew everyone and everyone knew him.

“He was just loved by everybody.

“You can’t bottle what he brought to the service.

“Without a doubt, he has left a legacy with all the people he has helped through the years, through his mentoring and training.

Ernie spent 40 years as a paramedic, and mentored and trained many of the paramedics who attended his funeral.

His eight-year-old daughter, Isobel, tied helium balloons to the coffin on arrival.

The coffin was draped in an ambulance service flag, and was carried by members of ambulance staff.

After the service, the funeral procession drove to Eastleigh Cemetery, where a burial took place.

Carol, Ernie’s wife, and Isobel invited mourners back to Eastleigh Football Club after the service, encouraging them to share all their good and happy memories of him through the years.