Paramedics racing to reach a choking toddler at Butlin’s have told an inquest they were forced to abandon their ambulance and dash ahead on foot after finding the road blocked by closed gates and bollards.
Guests at the popular seaside resort were valiantly giving CPR to two-year-old James Manning as they waited for the emergency services to arrive, his inquest heard on Tuesday.
But despite every second counting when someone’s heart has stopped, the paramedics were hit by almost three minutes of delays after they arrived at Butlin’s.
James had been enjoying a fun-packed trip to the West Sussex holiday park with his mother and grandmother when he started choking on a piece of sausage on June 6, 2018.
James, from Battle in East Sussex, was eventually taken to hospital but died two weeks later.
Butlin’s has denied claims from James’ family that staff did not assist the toddler when he was choking.
An inquest into his death is taking place at Centenary House in Crawley.
Paramedics Steve Andrews and Tom Dimmock – who have nearly 40 years’ experience between them – told the inquest how they were delayed in getting to James.
They were first sent to the wrong entrance, the inquest heard.
Mr Andrews said: “The security person came out. I said I have got a cardiac arrest.
“He says ‘don’t know anything about it’.”
He was then told he needed to go to another entrance to the holiday park, by which time Mr Dimmock had pulled up behind him in his ambulance.
Mr Andrews said it was “probably one to two minutes” between arriving at the wrong entrance, talking to the security guard and then getting to the correct entrance.
When they arrived at the Gloucester Road entrance, the issues continued.
However, despite getting through the gates with just a 30-second delay, the paramedics were met with another obstacle just 15 metres further in.
Mr Dimmock told the inquest that their way was blocked by collapsable bollards, which a security guard was trying to take down.
He said: “He was struggling with them so we made quite a quick decision based on it being a cardiac arrest to proceed on foot.”
Mr Dimmock grabbed a response bag and a defibrillator and dashed ahead, he told the inquest.
Mr Andrews, also unable to drive further into Butlin’s, said: “I saw Thomas go with the response bag so made the decision we will abandon our vehicles here.”
When they arrived at the scene they saw that James was blue and took over his care.
They found a piece of sausage measuring between four and five centimetres – “about the size of a thumb” – lodged in his throat and managed to remove it, causing James’ skin to “pink up”.
He was taken to St Richards’ Hospital in Chichester for further treatment.
James was eventually transferred to Southampton General Hospital, where he died on June 20, 2018.
Thomas Coke-Smyth, representing James’ mother Natalie Reeves, suggested that the total delay the paramedics faced after arriving at Butlin’s was two minutes and 45 seconds.
He said: “It’s undesirable because if somebody is not breathing, is unconscious, their heart stopped, every second counts, would you agree?”
The paramedics agreed with him.
The inquest continues.