The inquest into the death of Luke Bennett found he could have survived had CPR been administered earlier.
Luke Bennett tragically died on 6th March 2021 after being electrocuted whilst playing football with his friends at Euxton Villa Football Club in Chorley, something which Luke and his friends had done on dozens of occasions without incident.
The boys were playing on the 7-a-side pitch which had a net that was not fixed to the ground at the bottom. Instead it was secured by a 7.3m long metal pole. Shortly before 6pm, Luke and two of his friends picked up the pole, turning it upright. At that point the metal pole either came into contact or very close contact with the live electrical wires overhead.
Luke and his friends fell to the floor immediately. Other young men who had been present called 999 and requested an ambulance. What unfolded was a very confused call and the call handler dispatched ambulance crews to the incorrect location. The inquest established that the call handler did not utilise a “find phone” button which is accessible to call handlers to locate mobile phones with 95% accuracy. This led to valuable time being lost in a situation where time was of the essence. The coroner found that had the ambulance service attended the correct address, it is more likely than not Luke would have survived.
When the ambulance crew eventually arrived at the correct location, police were already in attendance and CPR had been commenced by a police officer. CPR had not been commenced earlier by the young men present because the ambulance call handler advised them not to touch Luke. This was as a result of the MPDS, which is a triage system in place that provides call handlers with set questions to enable them to assess a situation. A question was asked as to whether the electrical hazard was still present. The caller responded yes, probably because of the overhead wires which were still present, but the pole was no longer touching any source of electricity and so there was no risk to anyone who may provide assistance to Luke. The inquest evidence established that the question of hazard identification had been incorrectly categorised and as a result of this error, advice was not given to start CPR when it should have been.
There were two defibrillators present at the football club, one inside the club house and one which was accessible to the public via the standard key code box on the gate. The call handler was informed a defibrillator was present but this was never revisited during the call.
The coroner commissioned expert evidence from a Consultant Cardiologist to examine the medical advice given by the ambulance service. Dr Schofield told the court that whilst CPR does not restore a heartbeat it does buy you time to administer advanced life support such as defibrillation which can have the effect of restarting a heart. He went on to explain that there is a window of opportunity between 20-30 minutes for restarting a heart but a defibrillator is essential.
The evidence at the inquest established that it was 22 minutes after Luke’s cardiac arrest that CPR was commenced by the police officer which mean Luke had a 154% chance of death.
Dr Schofield told the court that if CPR had been commenced for Luke within the first 10 minutes of his cardiac arrest, it is more likely than not he would have survived this incident. Similarly, if a defibrillator had been used in the first 10 minutes of Luke’s life, it is more likely than not that he would have survived.
Evidence was heard from the Chairman of Euxton Villa FC that the club did not foresee that the metal pole in question could or would be picked up. It was accepted that in theory the pole could present a risk to a goalkeeper falling over it and banging their head. The pole has since been cut into pieces, though this took some months to achieve due to a miscommunication. The club did not have any written risk assessment or policies in place at the time of the incident. Since the incident, risk assessments are in the process of being developed. The Coroner was not satisfied on the basis of the evidence that picking up of the pole vertically and lifting was reasonably foreseeable because of the length and weight of the pole.
The Coroner concluded that Luke’s death should be recorded as 1a electrocution.
The Coroner recorded a narrative conclusion finding that:-
On the balance of probabilities that if the ambulance service had attended at the correct address, it is more likely than not that Luke would have survived.
That had CPR instructions have been commenced, Luke would more likely than not have died on the 6th March 2021.
Had the defibrillator been utilised within the first ten minutes, it is more likely than not that Luke would still be alive.
Kelly Darlington, solicitor for the family said
This is an utterly tragic case. No one expects their son to go out to play football and never return home. Luke’s parents have shown nothing but dignity and strength in dealing with not only his death, but a long and complex inquest process and it is hoped they are now able to grieve properly in their own time.
Luke’s parents were represented by Kelly Darlington and her team and Sophie Allan of Kings Chambers.