Date published: 5th May 2017

The Inquest has concluded in the sad death of Tony McCormack. Tony was a Liverpool dad of three, who died after collapsing on a plane shortly before take-off at Manchester Airport.

On 5 May 2017, the Inquest concluded in the sad death of Tony McCormack. Tony was a Liverpool dad of three who died after collapsing on a plane shortly before take-off at Manchester Airport.

In June 2015 Engineer Tony McCormack, 56, from Childwall, became unwell aboard an Emirates A380 to Dubai as it taxied to the runway for take-off. Tony was first treated by cabin crew. An airport-based paramedic and firefighters then took over while they waited around 30 minutes for an ambulance, well outside the target time. He was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital where he was pronounced dead after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Tony’s widow, Julie McCormack, was distraught as her husband left for work on 2 June 2015 and did not come home. She sought answers surrounding the circumstances of her husband’s death from Emirates Airlines and Manchester Airport, but was shocked when there was a refusal to provide information to her about what had happened to her husband the night he died. Eventually, Julie received pieces of information from Wythenshawe Hospital and North West Ambulance Service which she tried to fit together like a jigsaw. After pushing both Manchester Airport and Emirates Airlines for reports but receiving very little information about what had happened, she was left with no alternative but to approach the Coroner and raise her concerns about the circumstances in which Tony died.

It has taken Julie and her daughters 23 months to find out what happened to Tony on the evening of 2 June 2015. There was conflicting information in the material provided by Emirates and the North West Ambulance Service. Tony’s widow, Julie, was particularly concerned that there was a poor response provided by Emirates when Tony first showed signs of being unwell. The evidence from the airport paramedic was that upon arrival, Tony was not breathing and lying in the recovery position facing the back of a row of seats. The paramedic did not see anyone monitoring Tony’s breathing or providing him with CPR. The paramedic also stated that Tony was alone with a defibrillator attached to him. The evidence from the Emirates crew was that Tony was breathing and there was no defibrillator attached. The Coroner found that by the time the airport paramedic boarded the plane Tony was already in cardiac arrest and there was an AED attached to him.

During the course of the inquest it came to light that there is no protocol to ask for medical assistance from the other 475 passengers on board. The family are shocked that no medical assistance from passengers was sought given Tony’s condition / when there should have been no doubt this was a medical emergency.

Tony’s widow, Julie, is concerned that there is just one paramedic for the whole of Manchester Airport. Although the paramedic can begin basic life support, the evidence was that it is difficult to maintain this single handedly for any significant time. The paramedic cannot start advanced life support alone. The North West Ambulance Service stated that there is no legal requirement to have a paramedic at an airport; however, Manchester International Airport is the country’s second busiest airport. It is also of concern that the Ambulance Service are failing to meet target times and therefore lives are being put at risk. On the night Tony died the only ambulance initially able to respond was from Merseyside. This was making its way to Manchester Airport until one from Manchester was later identified.

The Coroner found that Tony died of natural causes. She concluded that his rapid deterioration into cardiac arrest and the consequent seriousness of his condition were not fully recognised and CPR was not commenced promptly prior to the arrival of the first paramedic. However, on the evidence earlier institution of CPR would not have prevented death. The Coroner indicated that she was minded to make a “Prevention of Future Death” report to Emirates regarding further training in the recognition of cardiac arrest, agonal breathing and the administration of appropriate first aid and basic life support.

The Coroner also indicated that she was minded to write a letter of concern to Emirates about their cooperation with the coronial investigation and about the quality of their investigation following Tony’s sad death. The Coroner was also concerned by the evidence about ambulance response times and confirmed that she will be making a “Prevention of Future Death” report to the Department of Health about this issue, which she considered to be a national concern.

The family consulted Broudie Jackson Canter solicitors once the Coroner had begun the Inquest process. A member of the team states:

“This family have not only suffered the sudden death of their loved one, but have had to endure an ongoing battle with a large organisation to find out the most basic details about how Tony died. When Julie initially came to see me, she merely wanted to know who had helped Tony that night. The reaction from Emirates and Manchester Airport to ignore the family’s request for information only created an atmosphere of suspicion and concern. It has been a struggle to extract information from those involved but this was achieved with the Coroner’s assistance. It is clear that Julie had the right to be concerned about the care provided to Tony on the night of his death. It provides some comfort that the Coroner has made reports to Emirates about further training for staff in the recognition of possible cardiac arrest and the administration of appropriate first aid and to the Department of Health about non-compliance with ambulance target times. The family hope that positive steps are taken in response to these reports in an effort to prevent any future deaths. They also hope that lessons have been learnt in relation to openness and transparency to prevent bereaved families in similar circumstances having to endure further trauma.”

Julie McCormack describes how she and her daughters are still in shock and the events of the last 23 months have led to further distress. For the family to lose Tony and have to go through this to establish how he died is disgraceful and unacceptable.

Tony was a wonderful husband and dad who filled our lives with so much love and happiness. We miss his beautiful smile and are totally lost without him. We would not want anyone to have to endure what we have to find the most basic details about what had happened to their loved one.

The family of Tony McCormack were represented by Leanne Devine of Broudie Jackson Canter Solicitors and Kate Stone of Garden Court North Chambers.