emergency services under fire after death

A CORONER has criticised emergency services after it took 45 minutes for an ambulance to reach a dying man.

Adrian Smith lay dying by the roadside while Pc Ian Garrick investigated an abandoned car.

And emergency services call centre operator Belinda Walker didn't send an ambulance because it was assumed Mr Smith was drunk.

An inquest yesterday (Wednesday) heard that Mr Smith, who had taken an overdose, would not have survived even if he had received medical attention earlier.

But Coroner Maureen Taylor criticised police and the call centre for the way that the incident was handled.

She said: "There are several matters which concern me. Firstly, the lack of information gained by the call centre. Secondly, the assumption that this man was drunk and an ambulance was not sent, even though Pc Garrick requested one.

"We then have the question of whether an abandoned car takes priority over a person lying on the roadside.

"Steps need to be taken to ensure that should a similar incident occur in the future we will not have a repeat performance."

The inquest heard that Mr Smith (43), of Tarry Hill, Swineshead, had suffered from depression because his parents were unhappy about his marriage to wife Marion, who is in a wheelchair.

Mr Smith's parents did not attend the couple's wedding three and a half years ago and they missed their son's 40th birthday celebration.

On September 9 Mr Smith returned from an appointment at Boston's Pilgrim Hospital.

Mrs Smith told the court: "When he got home he said 'if you love me, you will let me go and do it my way'. He put a can of beer in his pocket, which was strange because he didn't drink, went to the back door and said 'you will never see me again'."

Mrs Smith rang the police at 4.50pm and Pc Ian Garrick, of Boston Police, arrived at around 5.15pm. He searched areas Mrs Smith suggested her husband might be but couldn't find him.

Mr Smith was spotted lying at the side of the A17 near Swineshead Bridge by Robert Large, who was a passenger in a van, at around 6pm.

He told the inquest: "I rang 999 and asked for the police. I believed that the man may be drunk.

''I don't know why I reached that assumption. It was just what came into my mind."

Mr Large and a friend remained at the scene but after 40 minutes no police had arrived.

He added: "I rang 999 again. I looked across at the man and noticed that he was shaking violently. I was told the police were on their way.

"When I looked across again I could see there was no movement. I suspected he had stopped breathing. I then received a phone call from the ambulance operator who was asking for a location. The police arrived an hour and 13 minutes after my initial call."

Pc Garrick told the inquest that he'd returned to Mrs Smith's home after his unsuccessful searches for her husband and she gave him a photograph.

He added: "While there I received a phone call from Belinda Walker at the police call centre saying that a man had been found lying at the side of the road near Swineshead Bridge. I requested that she call an ambulance."

But despite his request Mrs Walker, a Lincolnshire Police despatcher, did not call an ambulance. She said: "Having reviewed the incident I decided not to. It is not normal practice to send an ambulance to reports of a drunk person."

Pc Garrick said he'd been on his way to Swineshead Bridge but took a wrong turn and found an abandoned Seat Ibiza which had hit a wall. The officer said: "I felt it was necessary to stay there and inform drivers of the hazard to prevent another accident."

An ambulance arrived at Swineshead Bridge at 7.06pm, having received information from an operator at 6.55pm.

Timothy Sands, one of the paramedics, said: "We attached an ECG machine to ascertain if there was any life in the man's heart but there was a flat line."

Pc Garrick eventually arrived at the scene at 7.30pm.

Mr Smith was officially identified by his brother-in-law David Connolly.

Miss Taylor said a toxicology expert had told her that Mr Smith would not have survived even with early attention because he had taken so much diothpin - an anti-depressant.

Miss Taylor recorded a verdict of suicide.