CPR given too late - coroner

By Don Farmer, don.farmer@age.co.nz

A coroner's report into the death of Carterton man Trevor Morris, who died after collapsing at Wellington Airport, has criticised the response of airport staff and emergency crews.

Both fire and ambulance services showed a lack of urgency and spent too long unpacking gear, rather than giving crucial CPR, according to the report released yesterday.

Coroner Garry Evans found that, while Mr Morris, 35, had died from heart failure, attempts to revive him fell "well short of effective practice".

Mr Evans said he agreed with the opinion of emergency medicine expert Dr Peter Freeman that delays in effective CPR and defibrillation had not given Mr Morris the best possible chance of survival.

Mr Morris was the son of Stan and Kathy Morris of Masterton, and partner of Linda Sage.

He was well-known throughout Wairarapa as a fleet service manager for Firestone Tyres.

Mr Morris died on August 17, 2009, soon after arriving at Wellington Airport on a flight from Christchurch.

A security video showed him unsteady on his feet, then staggering and collapsing.

He got up briefly but collapsed again when fellow passengers went to his aid and "appeared to support his airway".

But he was not given chest compressions for over six minutes, until airport fire officers arrived at the scene, and full CPR three minutes later.

Wellington Free Ambulance officers arrived about 13 minutes after Mr Morris had collapsed.

Dr Freeman told the coroner several airport workers had seen Mr Morris collapse and were there when initial resuscitation efforts started.

He said it was "disappointing" none of them contributed to efforts to save Mr Morris' life or appeared to have any CPR skills.

Dr Freeman found:

  • Insufficient urgency was shown by airport fire personnel, who spent too much time unpacking equipment when Mr Morris needed basic CPR.

  • Wellington Free Ambulance paramedics had also shown a lack of urgency and were too long unpacking equipment.

  • There was no proper crowd control and passengers, including small children, were walking past Mr Morris as he was being treated.

Mr Evans also considered a report from a police senior sergeant who had met and discussed Mr Morris' collapse with airport and other staff from agencies at the airport.

He later chaired a meeting which representatives from Wellington Airport, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Customs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Jetstar and the airport fire service attended.

The consensus was that the response of the airport to a major medical emergency could be improved significantly and that as a result many changes had now been made.

These include first aid training for staff from each organisation, who receive CPR and defibrillator training, a proposal for Wellington Airport to buy six automated external defibrillators, and the purchase of privacy screens. Wellington Free Ambulance and Wellington Airport could not be reached yesterday for comment.


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