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January 28, 2012

Man's anger with UK paramedic after 'comatose' son's death

The Western Mail

NEWPORT, Wales — The father of a young man who died after binge drinking yesterday criticised a paramedic who found him comatose and left him to sleep it off.

The angry father of Daniel Cripps, 22, said his son would still be alive if the paramedic had taken him to hospital immediately.

Michael Cripps, 44, of Newport, is already engaged in legal action against the Welsh Ambulance Service. Yesterday he called for the paramedic he holds responsible for his son's death to undergo urgent retraining to ensure he never makes the same mistake again.

Keen sportsman Mr Cripps downed 14 vodka shots and an array of other drinks in quick succession at a friend's 19th birthday party in April 2010.

An inquest in Newport yesterday heard he was later found to be almost four times the legal drink-drive limit for alcohol.

The party took place a five-minute drive away from the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

Friends quickly realised that Mr Cripps was ill and helped him to the toilet where he vomited and appeared insensible.

The inquest heard it was out of character for the otherwise healthy young man to drink such an amount.

Gwent corner David Bowen recorded a narrative verdict, which amounts to a neutral recounting of the events leading to death.

Earlier paramedic Ian Powell said he and a female colleague were called to the party in the early hours of April 25. He said they were met in the drive of the property by a man and woman.

"The male and female who took us inside kept saying, 'Sorry for bothering you, he has had too much to drink'," Mr Powell said. "The whole tone was very apologetic."

He said they were shown into a toilet where Mr Cripps was bending over the bowl and he proceeded to check him.

He said Mr Cripps was moved into an office and he checked his blood sugar levels, blood pressure and established his airways were clear.

He also checked with friends about how much he had been drinking and also established there had been no drug-taking.

He said he then applied what is known as the Glasgow coma scale, which is widely used to record consciousness levels in patients. The scale, which ranges from 1 to 15 with a healthy, unimpaired person measuring 15, regards a level 8 as severe or comatose. The paramedic said that he put Mr Cripps at level 8. At that time there was no recommendation regarding at what level on the scale a person should be taken to hospital, he said.

He agreed when asked by the coroner that Mr Cripps was "severely under the influence of alcohol" but said such cases were common at weekends.

He said that, based on the fact that he was in a safe environment with friends who were looking after him, he decided to leave Mr Cripps where he was.

"I was swayed by the people who knew him and the quiet place he was in. That is why I made my decision," he said.

Mr Bowen asked: "If you had found him in that state in a pub or club or raucous party, would you have taken a different decision?" "Yes. I would," Mr Powell replied.

He said that as he left he told those at the party: "If you become more concerned about him or if he starts to vomit, give us another call."

Danielle Baker, 20, who was celebrating her birthday, said they phoned for an ambulance again within about 20 minutes.

"He was lying down on the floor and his lips were blue and I realised then that things were serious," she said, sobbing.

She said a friend with first aid training tried to revive him as a second ambulance was called.

It arrived from Royal Gwent Hospital within five minutes and took over from the girl, who was receiving instructions over the phone. Paramedics in the second crew failed to find a pulse and Mr Cripps was effectively dead, although he was taken to hospital.

Dr Charles Deakin, an independent health expert, was later brought in to review the case of Mr Cripps, the inquest heard.

Mr Bowen read out a section in which Dr Deakin concludes he would expect an experienced paramedic to take a patient to hospital if he was judged to be an 8 on the Glasgow scale.

The report adds: "However, the risk of death from leaving Daniel at the scene was likely to have been less than 1%."

Mr Bowen added that Dr Deakin regarded that as a "significant risk".

Mr Bowen said Mr Cripps died of cerebral anoxia, or reduced oxygen to the brain, resulting from vomit blocking his lungs.

"If this inquest serves any sort of purpose I hope that it will serve as a reminder to all not only the dangers of binge-drinking but, when dealing with the intoxicated, caution is always the best policy," he said.

He added that he understood new guidelines were in place which he hoped would ensure such a tragedy never reoccurred.

Michael Cripps, speaking outside Newport coroner's court, said his son should have been taken to hospital.

"If he had been taken to hospital he would be alive now and we would not be here today," he said. "I am distraught to be quite honest with you. Daniel was a kind, generous and loveable person.

A keen sportsman who was already hungry. The paramedic that made this decision is still working. I don't know how he feels but I think he should be put through rigorous retraining."

Copyright 2012 Western Mail and Echo Ltd

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