UK & World News

  • 5 March 2014, 7:25

Teenager Died After Ambulance Call 'Chaos'

An ambulance was sent to the wrong place after a 14-year-old girl suffered a fatal asthma attack during an Air Cadets sports day.

Giving evidence to an inquest, Elouise Keeling's mother described the events surrounding her daughter's death as "chaos".

Karen Keeling watched helplessly as Elouise collapsed with breathing problems at RAF Brampton near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire on June 25 last year.

An ambulance was called at 7.44pm, but was sent to RAF Wyton, 10 miles away, by mistake and did not arrive until 8.03pm, coroner David Morris was told.

Elouise, who had suffered from asthma since she was 18 months old, died at the scene.

Mrs Keeling told the inquest at Huntingdon Law Courts that she rushed to her "popular and bubbly" daughter's side after she fell ill.

She said: "She rang me and said 'Mum, my asthma is really bad, you need to come now'. She sounded really panicked.

"When I got to her she was lying on her back. Her eyes were open, but she was unconscious."

Mrs Keeling overheard a phone conversation with the ambulance service.

"I heard him saying 'You shouldn't be there, you've gone to the wrong RAF base'," she explained.

"When they arrived it was quite chaotic."

Crews are supposed to respond to the highest priority cases within eight minutes, but that journey took 19 minutes.

Michael Smith, a senior Air Cadet instructor, made the 999 call as Elouise struggled for breath.

He said the call handler insisted on him giving a postcode: "She asked if it was RAF Brampton and Wyton.

"I said it was two separate bases and RAF Brampton was in the village of Brampton."

The inquest heard that a call handler had assumed that because the two bases were linked administratively, they were geographically close together.

Suzanne Truston, who took the call at an ambulance service base 75 miles away in Norwich, said: "Linked, to me, means close to or next to."

She said the problem had come to light when she asked Mr Smith how far he was from a water tower, which was actually near Wyton.

"In hindsight the road name would have helped and I now always ask for a road name for any RAF base," she added.

Wing Commander Anthony Kelly, who is in charge of Air Cadets in Huntingdon, told the inquest there had been incidents in 2006 and 2012 when ambulances had been unable to find the base because of an issue over the postcode.

Since Elouise's deaths, both sites have been allocated individual postcodes.

The East of England Ambulance Service has been widely criticised over delays in recent months.

In December the family of Peter Nelson, 26, spoke out when he died following a two-hour ambulance wait after he collapsed at his home in Blakeney in Norfolk.

The incident came four months after a coroner described the trust's crews as "chaotic" after hearing three-month-old Bella Hellings died when paramedics took more than three times longer than national targets dictate to reach her home in Thetford in Norfolk.

In October last year, another inquest heard Evelyn Heath, 93, from Attleborough, Norfolk, died from an irregular heartbeat in the back of an ambulance after the vehicle took more than four hours to reach her care home.

The inquest is expected to conclude on Wednesday.

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