Medical staff ‘failed’ driver

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A coroner has highlighted failings within the ambulance service after a bride-to-be died following a car accident.

Catherine Barton, 27, from Rowan Drive, Brandon, died on August 6, 2011, after her Ford Ka collided with a Volkswagen Golf on the B1107 near Thetford.

At an inquest in Norwich last Friday, Coroner William Armstrong described failings within the East of England Ambulance Service as ‘substantially’ reducing Miss Barton’s chances of survival.

The inquest heard how the female paramedic in charge took 35 minutes to arrive and was ‘overwhelmed’ by the incident.

Mr Armstrong said: “Ambulance staff were clearly struggling with the situation. It is a matter of concern that she did not seek help. The scene must have been horrific and it must have been daunting. Not only were there individual failings. There were systemic issues as well.”

The crash happened before 10pm as Catherine drove from Thetford with her friend, Hannah Roper. Trevor Pointer and his friend Craig Keeling were travelling in the opposite direction.

Driver Mr Pointer said an animal, believed to be a deer, jumped in front of his car and as he braked, he swerved and lost control, colliding with Miss Barton’s vehicle.

Miss Barton and Miss Roper were trapped in the Ka, injured but conscious.

The first firefighter on the scene was David Pleszko at 10.13pm. He rushed to Miss Barton, felt her pulse and spoke to her.

A second fire crew removed the Ka’s roof. The crews waited for the ambulance service’s instructions to take Miss Barton and Miss Roper out of the car.

Twenty minutes after the fire crew arrived, paramedic Fiona Turner arrived.

She tried to get fluids into Miss Barton through a drip, but struggled to find a vein. According to two firefighters, the fluids were not passing into her bloodstream.

Mr Pleszko said: “On numerous occasions I asked the watch manager when the attendance of the ambulance would be. Miss Barton was in a very bad condition.”

Mr Pleszko said Miss Barton’s condition was deteriorating and that he voiced his concerns to Ms Turner.

According to Mr Pleszko, she said Miss Barton’s skin colour was ‘fine’ and her blood oxygen levels were stable.

Mr Pleszko said: “I have been to numerous fatalities. I have never had one where I have fed information to a paramedic and it has been ignored.”

Pc Chris Tremlin arrived around 20 minutes after the crash. He called for three ambulances and a critical care team at 10.30pm, but the care team did not arrive until 11.45pm.

Miss Barton was pulled from the car at 11.40pm, but had a cardiac arrest. She was pronounced dead at 12.22am.

Fiona Turner told the inquest she was ‘overwhelmed’ by the incident.

She said: “It was an alarming situation. I had never been first at the scene at anything this serious before,”

She said she ‘constantly’ expected another ambulance to arrive. “By the end of it I was exhausted and devastated. I didn’t come into the ambulance service to have patients die in front of me,” she said.

Mr Armstrong returned a narrative verdict.