Walton-on-the-Naze: High call volume meant ambulance was delayed getting to fall victim, 92, who died from head injuries sustained in beach fall

Aerial view of the Naze

Aerial view of the Naze - Credit: Archant

An ambulance was “substantially” delayed reaching a Second World War veteran who had suffered serious head injuries after falling down steps at Walton-on-the-Naze, an inquest heard.

Former RAF air gunner Norman Headworth, 92, had been on a trip to the town when the accident happened, and later died.

But an inquest into his death heard that the East of England Ambulance Service Trust had high call volume that day, putting it under “significant pressure”.

However, the inquest did not say the outcome would have been any different had an ambulance got there sooner, and a verdict of accidental death was recorded.

The “crazy paving” steps where the accident happened were also criticised during the inquest, and have since been closed by Tendring District Council. The inquest, in Bury St Edmunds, heard that Mr Headworth, from Long Melford, was with his family on a trip to the Essex coast.

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Referring to a report from Mr Headworth’s daughter, Coroner Dr Peter Dean said: “He lived a charmed life, he was an air gunner in the Second World War. He was most gregarious in setting up his own driving school in the late 1950s.”

The inquest heard he had “fallen in love” with Suffolk when visiting the county, before moving to live with his daughter.

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Dr Dean continued: “He walked confidently with the aid of a walking stick and pretty briskly on the level.

“The family took Mr Headworth to Walton-on-the-Naze for an afternoon at the seaside and her father went to the local pub garden where he could see the seafront.”

The inquest was told that when Mr Headworth and his family were preparing to go home, he tried to reach where his daughter was waiting for the car.

Upon reaching two steps, on a path maintained by Tendring District Council (TDC), he fell, hitting his head.

“There was a substantial delay in the attendance of the ambulance crew,” said Dr Dean.

A report from the East of England Ambulance Trust said it was under pressure due to a large number of calls that day.

Mr Headworth was transported to Colchester General Hospital where he was diagnosed with a major bleed on the brain.

Despite “excellent” care at the hospital, it was decided that the best course of treatment was palliative care and he died at 6.20am on May 29 - the day after the fall.

Dr Dean said: “He passed away in dignity in a private room with his family able to visit him at any time.”

The path where the incident happened was criticised by his daughter, who said poor markings and “crazy paving” style pavement meant they were hard to see.

In a report read out at the inquest, TDC said the steps had been closed following the incident and will be removed.

Dr Dean said: “I am going to record a conclusion of accidental death following this very sad case.”

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