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Coroner shoots Butlins for lack of medical equipment after boy, 2, chokes on sausage

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A coroner has condemned emergency services at Butlin’s holiday park after a toddler choked on a sausage.

James Manning, two, choked to death while enjoying his breakfast while on holiday with his family at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis, West Sussex in 2018.

But as the toddler fought for his breath and family members battled to save him, Butlin’s staff did not intervene.

James was taken by ambulance to hospital where he was placed on a ventilator, but he died two weeks later.

James Manning, two, choked to death while enjoying his breakfast while on holiday with his family at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis, West Sussex in 2018.

James' mother, Natalie Reeves, right, and his grandmother Angela Knight, pictured at his January 2020 inquest, believe Butlin's staff could have done more to save the youngster's life

James’ mother, Natalie Reeves, right, and his grandmother Angela Knight, pictured at his January 2020 inquest, believe Butlin’s staff could have done more to save the youngster’s life

Karen Harrold, assistant coroner for West Sussex, has condemned the holiday park, pictured, for its emergency response

Karen Harrold, assistant coroner for West Sussex, has condemned the holiday park, pictured, for its emergency response

An investigation last year found that his tragic death was ‘accidental’ and staff intervention may not have saved him.

However, Karen Harrold, assistant coroner for West Sussex, has condemned the holiday park for its emergency response.

She said she was “deeply concerned” that there was no national system for managing health and safety issues at the company’s many holiday parks.

And she said there was no written procedure for staff to follow unless a first aider was immediately available.

In her report to prevent future deaths, she said: ‘I was very concerned about whether there was a sufficiently robust incident investigation and reporting system so that lessons could be learned and then shared with staff.

“I am concerned that the Health & Safety Executive’s strong recommendation in the first aid regulations to consider visitor first aid and what will be offered in terms of amenities at each site was not adequately reflected in company practices.

“Witnesses confirmed that there was no standard written procedure describing how to quickly get first aid to staff and when and how to make an emergency call, especially if a trained first aider is not immediately available.”

Ms Harrold also said she was concerned that “many months” after the tragedy, there were still not enough outside telephone lines to call emergency services.

Due to the obstructions, there was a delay in treating the toddler, who later died in hospital

James' mother, Natalie Reeves, arrives at the inquest in Crawley, West Sussex

James Manning, two, choked on a sausage at Butlin’s in Bognoir Regis, West Sussex. The toddler’s mother, Natalie, arrives at the Crawley inquest

She was also concerned about insufficient defibrillators in key places such as restaurants and swimming pools.

James, from Battle, was well known to his GP and the local hospital as there had been multiple episodes of choking.

During the inquest last March, Ms Harrold said James had also been ‘abandoned’ by the NHS due to delays in assessing and treating the choking problem.

The incident took place in June 2018 when James was enjoying a family vacation with his mother Natalie Reeves and grandmother Angela

An inquest was told that on the morning of June 6 – two days after their arrival – the family went to the dining room for breakfast and chose a table in the buffet area.

His mother Natalie and grandmother put food on a plate for James to eat and began cutting it into bite-sized pieces.

James, however, took a piece of sausage from the plate before it was cut into pieces and swallowed it.

Miss Reeves, from Battle, East Sussex said: ‘He was gasping for breath instead of spitting it out. I said, ‘I think he’s choking,’ but I didn’t know how big it was.’

As he struggled to catch his breath, she grabbed her son and rushed to an employee, hoping to find someone with first aid training.

She told the staff member that James was choking before storming out of the building to find someone to help.

She slapped the toddler on the back and tried the Heimlich maneuver while other vacationers tried to help.

James’ grandmother, Angela Knight, said, “There were a few staffers standing around, but there was no Butlin staff helping James.

“There were Butlin’s employees there, but none of them helped. None of the first aiders helped James.’

The inquest last year learned that paramedics in two ambulances found their passage to Butlin’s blocked by gates, barriers and bollards and were forced to abandon their vehicles and continue on foot.

The obstructions delayed the toddler’s treatment and took another seven to eight minutes to clear the sausage from his throat.

The cause of death was hypoxic ischemic brain injury – or oxygen starvation – along with cardiac arrest following the asphyxiation incident.

To conclude her report, Ms Harrold wrote to Bourne Leisure Ltd – the owners of Butlin’s – and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust to take action to prevent future deaths.

After the inquest, Jon Hendry Pickup, director of Butlin’s said: ‘James’ death was a tragedy and we continue to extend our condolences to his family and friends. No words can begin to address their loss.

“The safety and well-being of our guests is paramount and we are constantly trying to learn from every incident that occurs at our sites to ensure we keep everyone as safe as possible.”

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