Leisure boss speaks out over Jamie Skinner death

John Comiskey. Picture: Comp
John Comiskey. Picture: Comp
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The boss of Edinburgh Leisure has defended the organisation’s safety record in the wake of Evening News revelations about the death of tragic teen Jamie Skinner.

Chief executive John Comiskey was speaking for the first time since the footballer collapsed and died during a match at the Saughton sports complex in December.

And he revealed he plans to sit down with Jamie’s dad and brief him personally on the events on the day – and the steps he’s put in place to help prevent similar deaths in future.

He said: “The Skinner family has behaved with great dignity. Jamie’s father is in Africa just now but plans to return in July. I will sit down and talk to him and fully brief him.”

The News this week exclusively revealed a litany of failures surrounding Jamie’s death. The 13-year-old died just before Christmas after falling ill during a football match.

Despite a defibrillator machine being available at the sports centre – it was never produced. Incredibly one staff member picked the life-saving machine up with the intention of going to Jamie’s aid – before putting it back.

Two members of staff at the centre were later sacked for failing to carry out emergency procedures.

Today Mr Comiskey said training staff to the highest levels to guarantee the safety of its 4.8 million visitors a year, and the proper handling of medical emergencies, was a priority for the organisation.

He further revealed 63 of their 800 staff have now been fully trained to use the devices.

And he said defibrillators had been used four times at Edinburgh Leisure premises since they were introduced – three times successfully.

Only one man had subsequently died after being treated by a defibrillator at Craiglockart Sports Centre.

But Mr Comiskey said that on that occasion, following an inquiry, Edinburgh Leisure staff had acted in accordance with the emergency plan.

Speaking about the events of December 22, when Jamie died, he added: “Emergency situations are inevitable but we are disappointed at the response to the incident. We are highly proud of our safety record and normally our staff respond impeccably. But we are not complacent. Although I cannot comment on the specifics of this incident we expect staff to take account of the reality of the situation.

“Any suggestion that the overriding concern is the reception should be manned during an emergency is ridiculous.

“The health and safety of our customers is our first priority and staff know what is expected of them in an emergency situation.”

Yesterday the Evening News reported that a set of guidelines drafted in the wake of Jamie’s death, giving the public advice on how to respond to serious incidents at the complex, had not been issued.

The 45-year-old boss of the arm’s length company confirmed they would now be considered for distribution. “We will apply what has been learned,” he said.

The Skinner family has criticised Edinburgh Leisure for its lack of transparency over Jamie’s death. Mr Comiskey pointed out, in the last ten years there had been a 90 per cent reduction in accidents at its facilities.

An appeal by one of the sacked workers is due to be held next week.