Belfast Telegraph

Boy has seizure on football pitch - but paramedics are locked out by FIVE padlocks

Father's anguish after teenage son left fighting for his life while 999 team battled to gain access to pitches

By Amanda Ferguson

A father has spoken of his anger after an ambulance was delayed by 11 vital minutes in reaching his son after he collapsed and swallowed his tongue during a football match - because of a padlocked gate at a leisure centre.

The family of Cameron Moss have received an apology after paramedics were stopped from reaching the 14-year-old as he lay injured on a pitch at the Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey.

Ambulance crews rushed to the scene but were stopped from entering the pitch by a gate which had five padlocks.

At one stage, a set of bolt cutters was produced to try and get the ambulance access to the teen.

As the Ashfield High pupil lay fitting on the pitch, Cameron's father and twin brother watched on in horror.

The distressing scenes unfolded at an outdoor pitch at the Valley Leisure Centre on Saturday morning during an under-15s match between Dungoyne FC and St Mary's FC in the South Belfast Premier League.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Andrew Moss said he feared his son was dying after he collapsed and fell unconscious after a tackle.

The young Dungoyne player had swallowed his tongue and was suffering fits as he lay on the grass.

An ambulance was called at 11.29am while trained first aiders attempted to help young Cameron.

It arrived at the scene six minutes later but its crew was confronted by a gate which had been bolted shut with five padlocks.

The boy's twin brother Connor and his father were watching the events all unfold.

The Bombardier supervisor from Dundonald told of his panic when he realised the ambulance could not reach his son.

"He was playing football with about 15 minutes to go and the boys went for the ball and he was hit on the head and collapsed on the ground," he said.

"For a couple of seconds, we thought he would get back up again but he never moved.

"Our coach, a fireman who is trained in first aid, ran on and another parent, an off duty ambulance driver, rushed to help Cameron.

"I realised it was serious and he wasn't moving.

"I ran up and he was still unconscious and he had swallowed his tongue."

Andrew said the minutes waiting for medical assistance felt like an eternity.

"It seemed like forever," he said.

"He came round but started taking a fit. He was fitting for a couple of minutes and was in and out of consciousness.

"I saw two ambulance drivers with their kit and someone ran down to meet them. They made us aware they couldn't get in."

The paramedics accessed the pitch on foot and began working on the teenager. The gate was eventually opened and the ambulance allowed through a full 11 minutes after it arrived on the scene. Cameron was then taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for treatment.

The concerned dad revealed his son has made a full recovery - but he could have been facing a much worse outcome.

"If it had have been a heart attack, it would have been the difference between life and death," he said.

"He ended up with fluid in his knee and is on crutches now but head-wise, he seems okay."

At one stage during the ordeal, a Valley Leisure Centre worker arrived at the gates with large bolt cutters but it is understood they were not needed in the end.

Andrew added: "I had no contact with anyone from the Valley. It is a disgrace. It could have been a life or death situation. I feel lucky.

"The leisure centre needs to look at how they are running events.

"Surely there must be a health and safety plan in place for emergency services?"

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said it received a call at 11.29am indicating a 14-year-old boy was short of breath and had been unconscious.

"We arrived at 11.35 but had difficulty getting on the pitch," the NIAS spokesman said.

"The crew left the scene at 12.05."

Davy Livingstone, secretary of Dungoyne FC, said: "We are very concerned about what went on on Saturday.

"There should always be access for emergency vehicles.

"It is lucky we are not talking about a fatality."

A spokesman for the South Belfast League said he didn't realise how difficult it would be for an ambulance to access the site.


"I remember a ball being in the air and I went for a header and the next thing I woke up and didn't know what had happened. Paramedics were putting oxygen over my face and I was thinking 'what is happening?'. My family and everyone else all thought it was worse than what it actually was. Everyone was scared. I found out after I came back from the hospital what had happened."

Youth footballer Cameron Moss

'There was panic when the parents realised that they couldn't reach us'

Belfast Telegraph Picture Editor Peter Rainey was among the anxious parents who watched events unfold at the youth football match. Here he recounts his horror as paramedics struggled to reach the stricken teenager...

It was one of the most frightening things I have ever seen, especially as a parent of two young boys the same age. I was standing at the match with Cameron Moss's dad when we noticed he went down after a challenge.

The kids' faces indicated to us it was serious. We ran up and it was obvious Cameron was in severe trouble. He appeared to be having a fit.

Our coach (from Dungoyne FC) Glen McMillan reacted quickly and got Cameron into the recovery position. I rang the ambulance service, who were brilliant and very calming. They said the ambulance would be with us shortly.

What seemed like an hour was only 10 minutes in passing. I rang back to be told the ambulance was there but couldn't get into the playing area. Eventually the paramedics had to walk to where Cameron was.

By this stage he had appeared to regain consciousness. The locked gate was eventually opened and the ambulance made its way to Cameron at the pitches.

The quick thinking of Glen and the other parents helped the situation, but there was certainly a panic when we thought the ambulance couldn't reach us.

As a parent, I would hope health and safety would be of the utmost importance at matches like this and the gates would stay open when games are being played.

I am glad Cameron has made a full recovery.

It is lucky we are not dealing with a much more serious situation.

Council sorry for family ordeal and vows to review its safety procedures

The family of Cameron Moss has received an apology from the council which has responsibility for the pitches which were closed off by a padlocked gate.

A statement from Antrim and Newtownabbey Council said that while all clubs had been informed via a leaflet about calling the pavilion of the Valley Leisure Centre in case of emergencies, it would be reviewing procedures.

The statement said normal vehicle access to the outdoor pitches at the Valley Leisure Centre is closed to "facilitate the ongoing major capital work at the Valley Park".

"In November 2014, new arrangements and procedures were put in place for emergency vehicle access to the outdoor football pitches," it said.

"This temporary access is via a secure site owned by NI Water and requires the opening of a security gate to allow the emergency vehicle access. All the football teams who have bookings for these pitches were advised of this.

"This procedure requires a representative from the football team notifying the on-site pavilion attendant that an ambulance is needed.

"On Saturday the pavilion attendant was not contacted and so had no prior notification of an ambulance arriving.

"As soon as the Valley Leisure Centre staff were made aware of the incident, they ensured access and provided any assistance required.

"We are reviewing our emergency vehicle access arrangements to prevent a recurrence.

"We apologise to the young footballer and his family and send our best wishes to him for his recovery."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph