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Mother tells of 'panic' as daughter choked to death on a grape

Published 05/01/2016

An inquest was told evidence suggested it may have taken up to 25 minutes for paramedics to arrive
An inquest was told evidence suggested it may have taken up to 25 minutes for paramedics to arrive

A mother has told an inquest of the "torture" of waiting up to 25 minutes for an ambulance as her six-year-old daughter choked to death on a grape.

Kathleen Lapsley and her husband Robert, said there was growing "panic" and "chaos" as an off-duty police officer and passing firemen battled to save their daughter Jasmine, while awaiting paramedics.

The couple, from Anfield, Liverpool, were on holiday in Morfa Nefyn, north Wales, with their daughter, two sons and in-laws when tragedy struck.

On the first day of the inquest into Jasmine's death, the hearing was told evidence suggested it might have taken up to 25 minutes for the first paramedics to arrive and an air ambulance was only allocated to the emergency call 13 minutes after the alarm was raised.

Mrs Lapsley, knelt beside her daughter saying, "Mummy's here, Mummy's here" said she heard one fireman at the scene speak into his radio, saying: "Don't they realise this is a six-year-old girl?"

She added: "That's when the panic set in for me, because they looked panicked."

The coroner's court heard the family were relaxing in a holiday home when around 8.30pm on August 19 2014, Jasmine, who was playing cards at a table with her brothers and grandparents, began to choke on a grape given to her by her mother.

Mrs Lapsley said her husband "launched" himself at his daughter, slapping her back and giving abdominal compressions and "panic set in" as one of the other children screamed in terror.

They took the girl outside and an ambulance was called, while neighbours, Aled Hughes, an off-duty police officer, and his wife, Awen Hughes, a first aid trainer, "dived in" to help.

As the girl's father became "hysterical" passing firemen were flagged down and tried to assist but as they awaited the ambulance, were heard saying: "Where is it? Where is it? Where's the helicopter?"

Two community first responders, volunteers trained to give first aid, arrived but they "froze, like rabbits in the headlights", Mrs Lapsley told the court.

When the ambulance arrived it drove a short distance to where an RAF helicopter had landed and took the girl to Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital in Bangor.

Her parents were rushed on a 30-minute drive to the hospital in a neighbour's car but when they ran inside expecting to see their daughter, they were taken into a side room by two doctors.

"Straight away by looking at their faces I knew it was not good," Mrs Lapsley told the court.

"They said she still had a pulse, still alive, but it was not good. They were doing tests on her."

Half an hour later doctors returned to tell the parents their daughter's chance of survival was "zero" and life support would have to be withdrawn.

Nicola Jones, deputy coroner for north-west Wales, said it was a "matter of deep personal concern" for Jasmine's family that the decision to end life support was taken so quickly.

Mrs Lapsley said: "My body just shut down. We had just been given this information and they were going to withdraw treatment straight away.

"There was no choice. It felt very pressured.

"We have played out this, over and over, my boys should be there, my father-in-law, we would have had some close people to us, that would have come to say goodbye, but we never got the chance."

Kirsten Heaven, representing the family, asked Mrs Lapsley what her opinion would be, "if it transpires" during further evidence that it took 25 minutes for paramedics to arrive and a 13 minute delay before a helicopter was allocated after the initial 999 call.

"It's too late. It shouldn't take that long," Mrs Lapsley replied.

The hearing, at the council offices in Caernarfon, north Wales, was adjourned until on Wednesday morning.

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