Failures hampered bid to save Jamie Skinner’s life

Jamie skinner. Picture: Comp
Jamie skinner. Picture: Comp
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A CATALOGUE of failings which hampered efforts to save the life of teenage footballer Jamie Skinner has been uncovered by the Evening News.

Two Edinburgh Leisure workers have been sacked after failing to go to the pitch to help and leaving the centre’s defibrillator unused when the 13-year-old collapsed at Saughton Sports Complex and died.

But documents seen by the News – including the leisure company’s internal inquiry report, which has never been made public, witness statements and internal memos – reveal a series of failures in the run-up to the tragedy. These include errors in judgement made by the workers on duty and equipment which had been reported broken but had not been fixed.

Our investigation discovered:

• The staff on duty had both attended a defibrillator refresher course just three weeks before;

• CCTV captured one of them taking the defibrillator from the sports centre wall before changing his mind and putting it back;

• It was an emergency call made by a match spectator – not the staff – that allowed the operator to class it as a severe emergency;

• Staff said external CCTV used to monitor the pitches and alert staff to incidents had been reported broken months earlier but not repaired;

• Staff also claimed a bollard blocking ambulance access was broken and had not been repaired and boulders had been placed around it to prevent vehicle access to the site;

• Workers – who earned just £15,000 to £17,000 a year – did not want the responsibility of using defibrillators and had raised concerns with their union;

• There was no supervisor on site on the day, Sunday 22 December, which is one of the centre’s busiest;

• No evidence from the two sacked workers was contained in the final Edinburgh Leisure report;

• A police file into Jamie’s death has been with the Crown Office since late December – but it is not yet known whether criminal charges will be brought.

Jamie’s family has asked to see the internal inquiry report but Edinburgh Leisure has refused, citing data protection and employment law issues.

However, a copy seen by the News provides the most detailed picture yet of events on the day of tragic Jamie’s death.

The talented youngster was making his debut for Tynecastle under-14s when he collapsed shortly before 11.50am after heading a ball out of play minutes into the second half of the game.

Among the spectators was a trained nurse with 20 years’ experience whose son was playing in the match.

She went to Jamie’s aid.

At first, she thought the youngster was having a fit, but on realising he had no pulse she administered CPR, with the help of two fathers who had also been watching the game.

Realising the drama unfolding before him was serious, a spectator dialled 999 from a mobile phone and another ran to the sports complex office 180 metres away to raise the alarm.

There were two staff members on duty – whose names were redacted from the dossier seen by the News.

When the female spectator reached the office reception, on being told a boy had collapsed, one staff member immediately dialled 999 while the other went to ensure there was clear access for the ambulance.

They later told an inquiry cameras fitted with zoom-in technology trained on the pitches and players were not working – and that this had been reported numerous times.

The one who called the ambulance told the operator only that a boy had collapsed, and the internal inquiry concluded that he “did not give crucial information to the emergency operator to allow them to prioritise the call”.

The pitchside caller remained on the phone and information relayed by him made the call a top priority. An ambulance arrived within 11 minutes of his call.

However, in his statement to his employers, the worker who was alerted said he had not been given adequate information on the seriousness of the incident.

Internal office CCTV shows the Edinburgh Leisure employee spent the next 13 minutes in reception and did not make any attempt to find out what was going on. At one point, he locked the reception door, picked up the defibrillator and walked towards the door, before stopping, turning and putting it back.

He later told the inquiry he had been told that the reception must be staffed at all times and – with his colleague away – was afraid to leave the building unattended.

Ambulance access to the ground would have been blocked but for the actions of the second leisure attendant.

A metal bollard, designed to prevent unauthorised vehicles access to the ground, was broken and boulders had been put on an adjoining pathway which would have stopped an ambulance driving in, according to statements from the sacked workers. They said it had been reported broken on December 18 – four days before Jamie died – but not fixed.

One of the workers said he spent most of the time the ambulance was en route moving the boulders and had just finished clearing them when it arrived.

No details of the out-of-order CCTV or bollard problem were included in Edinburgh Leisure’s final report. The arms-length organisation, which manages sports facilities in the Capital, refused to comment on this or explain why this detail was not included in their report.

Jamie was still alive, and in ventricular fibrillation – a condition where the heartbeat becomes shallow and uncoordinated and prevents blood being pumped effectively around the body – when the emergency teams arrived.

Medics were unable to revive him on the pitch and he was later pronounced dead at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. One of the main criticisms of the sacked workers was that they failed to use a vital defibrillator to try and resuscitate Jamie.

The inquiry documents show that both staff members had been trained how to use it and had undergone two three-hour basic training sessions, plus three refresher courses – the last just 20 days before Jamie died. They were meant to have undergone training in a “simulated” outdoor incident but this training never took place.

An Edinburgh Leisure source said there had been widespread concern among staff about having to use the machines, which fire a mild electric current into heart condition victims. Their fears had been raised with Edinburgh Leisure by the trade union Unison.

The source said: “Many leisure staff are first-aid trained but the majority of them do ordinary things like locking up, cleaning up and picking up litter and generally looking after the premises.

“Many did not want the serious responsibility of having to use a defibrillator. No-one was warned they would be sacked if they refused. I think most agreed to the training thinking that it was a million-to-one chance they would ever have to use it. There is a view that these guys have been made scapegoats.

“Because of health and safety rules staff are not allowed to put a sticking plaster on an injury or hand out an aspirin but they are expected to use a defibrillator.”

The faulty CCTV and bollard were repaired immediately after the Christmas break – as disciplinary proceedings against the staff began.

The two workers were suspended pending Edinburgh Leisure’s internal investigation. They were later sacked for “failing to follow proper emergency procedures”.

One is understood to have opted in the meantime to take early retirement while an appeal by the second worker is due to be held shortly.

Letters within the dossier also reveal that both men were sent to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for post-traumatic stress counselling. Three months later one former colleague said were still both “deeply traumatised”.

Edinburgh Leisure refused to discuss whether the CCTV was out of action or whether the bollard was broken when asked by the News.

A spokeswoman said – as there were “ongoing disciplinary procedures” – she could not comment.

But she did confirm 63 staff had been trained in the use of defibrillators at “dry” sites and that the equipment had been used four times in the past year.

“Staff at our smaller venues are there to be first responders and we train staff with this objective,” the spokeswoman said.

Jamie’s heartbroken father, George, did not wish to comment due to the ongoing investigation.

Police Scotland said a report was sent to the procurator fiscal in December.

Timeline of horror

DECEMBER 22

11am: Tynecastle FC match kicks off.

11.49am: The Scottish Ambulance Service receives a 999 call requesting a medical team after Jamie collapses. Time lapse between call and collapse uncertain.

11.50am (approx): Saughton staff asked to call an ambulance. The call lasts two minutes but ambulances are already on their way. One of the two members of staff, assisted by members of the public, removes boulders to allow the ambulance access and direct it into the ground. He was away from reception for seven minutes. The second member of staff remains at reception for 13 minutes in case the ambulance calls back – by which time it has arrived. At one point he is seen lifting the defibrillator but puts it back. He says he has no information that it is required.

Noon: The pitchside caller is still on the line feeding additional information when the ambulance arrives and medics begin treating Jamie after a nurse and two dads had taken turns to administer CPR for between 15 and 20 minutes. He is taken away by ambulance but is subsequently pronounced dead at the ERI.

12.16pm: Coaches of both sides come to reception for the first time, almost 25 minutes after Jamie is taken away by ambulance. A three-minute conversation, captured on CCTV, takes place. They ask about the defibrillator and are told the woman who raised the alert did not indicate it was needed and did not outline details of Jamie’s plight.

12.30pm: Police arrive and begin to take two statements from the two Edinburgh Leisure staff.

12.43pm: Saughton supervisor Graham Blair, who was on a day off, is called and alerted to the incident.

Hibs and Hearts unite in grief

THE sudden death of Jamie came hours after 18-year-old David Paul – a Hibernian youth player – passed away in his sleep, plunging both Edinburgh clubs into mourning.

Tributes to the pair flooded in from across the football world as family and friends of the teenagers struggled to cope with the double tragedy.

Condolences were paid by Rangers midfielder Kyle Hutton, Birmingham City star Peter Lovenkrands and Scotland international Charlie Adam.

Management staff from both Hearts and Hibs attended the respective funerals of the youngsters.

Up-and-coming talent David Paul is understood to have died in his sleep at his home in Fairmilehead.

His death was not suspicious. It later emerged the teenager’s sister, Jennifer, also passed away in similar circumstances five years earlier at the age of 16. Jamie’s family have now founded a charity foundation in honour of the 13-year-old with the aim of supplying life-saving defibrillators to schools and sports teams.

To fund the ambitious venture, scores of highly prized items were donated to a charity auction including signed shirts from Hearts legend Rudi Skacel and former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan.

A commemorative football match also saw hundreds of rain-sodden spectators turn out to honour the teenager. Collection buckets were overflowing with donations.

One bag-packing event saw generous shoppers hand over £1,400.

Jamie’s school mates at Liberton High – now rocked by the tragic loss of 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett – have also launched a fundraising drive to help the family reach their £5000 target.

WAITING GAME

A POLICE dossier into Jamie Skinner’s death has been with the Crown Office for months – but it is not yet known whether criminal charges will be brought.

Prosecutors are still probing the circumstances of the tragedy under the direction of the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit.

It is understood Police Scotland delivered their report in late December.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said the Skinner family “will continue to be kept updated”.

If no criminal charges are brought, the family may consider launching a civil suit.