Harry Dunn: Senior Northamptonshire coroner highlights three areas where action should be taken following tragedy

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A senior Northamptonshire coroner has highlighted three areas where action should be taken following Harry Dunn’s tragic death.

Anne Pember, who ruled over last month’s inquest into the teenager’s death, which concluded the cause of death was a road traffic collision, has now penned three Prevention of Future Death (PFD) reports.

The reports - seen by Chronicle & Echo - cover driver training provision, ambulance wait times and the lack of availability of certain “potentially life saving” medicines to paramedics.

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Harry’s family have also spoken out to say they are “pleased” Ms Pember has written these reports as they are “determined to ensure Harry’s death was not in vain”.

Harry Dunn died in August 2019 after being hit by a US driver who was travelling on the wrong side of the road.Harry Dunn died in August 2019 after being hit by a US driver who was travelling on the wrong side of the road.
Harry Dunn died in August 2019 after being hit by a US driver who was travelling on the wrong side of the road.

‘No familiarisation or any other form of training’

Ms Pember raised concerns about the lack of training and familiarisation that Ms Sacoolas received.

In her PFD report, addressed to the Foreign and Commonwealth and Development Office and the Ministry of Defence, she said: “In terms of driver training provision there was a distinction between what was provided to the US Military and what was provided, or rather not provided, to Diplomatic personnel. The input provided to the US military personnel amounted to a driver briefing and the completion of a UK theory driving test. Nothing was provided to the diplomatic personnel.”

Ms Pember goes on to say Ms Sacoolas had received “no familiarisation or any other form of training”.

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Harry's mum Charlotte Charles (left), dad Tim Dunn (right) and family spokesman Radd Seiger (middle).Harry's mum Charlotte Charles (left), dad Tim Dunn (right) and family spokesman Radd Seiger (middle).
Harry's mum Charlotte Charles (left), dad Tim Dunn (right) and family spokesman Radd Seiger (middle).

The coroner added: “Had she received appropriate training reminding her to keep to the left and to help her to understand and interpret the UK road signs and markings it is possible the collision with Mr Dunn may not have occurred.”

Evidence from the US Embassy heard during the inquest said that driver training is now provided to all personnel, however Ms Pember says other evidence was “at odds” with this, thus she has concerns about the risk of future deaths.

‘EMAS was unable to meet mean response standards’

Ms Pember also wrote a PFD report to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care relating to the ambulance response time on the day of Harry’s death - August 27, 2019.

The coroner said: “EMAS … had entered a sustained period where demand was outstripping the resources they had available.

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“Although EMAS reported a slight improvement in the issue of resourcing following the adoption of the newer NHS Pathways triage process the delay in paramedics attending Category 2 calls has not been resolved to within target ranges.

“I am concerned that these continuing delays for ambulances at hospital handovers reflects a risk of deaths into the future.”

‘Unavailability of potentially life saving pre hospital treatments’

Ms Pember also penned a third PFD report to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, relating to certain kinds of medicines being unavailable to paramedics.

Ms Pember wrote: “Due to the experience level and qualifications of the pre hospital team in attendance, which included a Consultant Anaesthetist, an alternative form of analgesia, namely nasal morphine could be administered.

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“However, evidence was heard at the inquest that had the first attending team been a paramedic team they could not have administered this potentially life saving treatment as analgesia's … are not presently available to paramedics despite being available to UK military personnel and mountain rescue teams.

“I am concerned that the unavailability of such analgesics to paramedics to assist them to deliver potentially life saving pre hospital treatments or to enable a faster extraction of a patient where time is of the essence for medical treatment reflects a risk of deaths into the future.”

All three government departments have 56 days to respond.

‘All lessons need to be learned’

Reacting to the PFD reports, Harry’s family say their biggest concern was the “failure” of authorities to address the risk of harm on the roads outside US bases in the UK.

Speaking on behalf of the family, their adviser and spokesperson Radd Seiger said: “Apart from ensuring that Mrs Sacoolas faced our justice system after she killed Harry, the family were always determined to ensure that Harry’s death was not in vain and that part of his legacy would be that no family should suffer the way they suffered and that all lessons that needed to be learned arising from his death were learned.

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“That is the main purpose of an inquest and we have been working hard with the Coroner Mrs Pember to help her undertake a thorough inquiry into how Harry died and what can be done to prevent any repeat.

“We are very pleased to see that Mrs Pember has added her voice to calls for action in respect of ambulance delays (Harry was left dying in a ditch by the side of the road for far too long) and for paramedics to be able to carry stronger pain relief to help patients like Harry.

“Our biggest concern however was the failure by both the US and UK authorities to address the very obvious risk of harm on the roads outside US bases in the UK. HM Coroner was just as troubled as we were and she has issued a further PFD report to the US and UK authorities.

“Thousands of people were killed or seriously injured before Harry died and more have been killed and injured since his death, with no meaningful action being taken to deal with the problem.

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“Despite the UK FCDO saying publicly that lessons had been learned in respect of road safety and that they were taking steps to ensure that the US did address the issue once and for all, it became clear in evidence at the inquest that that was not in fact the case. Let us see what the UK and US now say in response to the PFD report.”

The family are also “delighted” to see that Labour are in power, as they have promised a public inquiry into how the family were treated and have said the issues of road safety will be addressed.