By JAMES SALMON, TRANSPORT EDITOR FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 22 July 2018
John Coles went into cardiac arrest after a safety truck collided with his van at Heathrow
A British Airways engineer who died following a car crash at Heathrow ‘didn’t stand a chance’ after it took a paramedic – who was travelling by bicycle – nearly an hour to arrive on the scene. [IPMBA Note: see contradiction below in bold]
John Coles, 44, had initially been injured and later went into cardiac arrest after a safety truck collided with his van at a Terminal 5 crossing earlier this year.
But details have only now emerged about the response to the crash at Britain’s busiest airport.
Despite the injured engineer complaining of chest pains after the accident, it took about 50 minutes for a paramedic to arrive on a bicycle after the first call for help.
And the first ambulance took an hour and eight minutes to arrive, by which time Mr Coles had gone into fatal cardiac arrest.
Mr Coles, who lived with his parents in Poole, Dorset, had worked at Heathrow for 28 years.
His family are convinced the response of emergency services and the failure of Heathrow to crack down on speeding airside vehicles played a role in his death.
His mother Venita Coles, 76, said: ‘I find it impossible to cope with the fact I could not be there for him and others that should have been there for him weren’t.
'I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of him – all the time.’
And Mr Coles’s brother Mark said: ‘The slow response time by the ambulance was likely a significant factor in my brother’s death. It meant he didn’t stand a chance.
‘It seems very clear that Heathrow is not appropriately equipped to deal with an acute medical emergency.’
Mr Coles joined BA as an apprentice at the age of 16 and rose through the ranks to become one of its senior aircraft technicians.
Ambulance and medical reports seen by the Daily Mail reveal the calamitous chain of events following the crash.
Heathrow Airport Fire Service arrived at the scene within minutes of the collision, which occurred in the early morning of February 14 this year.
They took Mr Coles out of the car, which had been badly damaged by the impact.
He was reported to have no visible injuries apart from a bloody nose and a small cut on his right cheek.
He was taken on a stretcher to a cramped gate room office at 5.56am.
He is then thought to have slowly bled to death from internal injuries on a stretcher as he waited for medics to arrive – although the family are still waiting for the official verdict from the coroner.
The ambulance report shows the first call for a paramedic was made at 6.03am. The London ambulance service assigned it as a ‘category three’ call as injuries were described as ‘unknown’.
This meant it was deemed urgent but not life threatening.
Three more emergency calls were made, and a paramedic on bicycle, who was based at Heathrow, was dispatched at 6.47am – arriving four minutes later, at 6.51am.
The medic did not start attending to Mr Coles until 7am, by which time he had gone into cardiac arrest.
The first ambulance on the scene arrived at 7.11am having been dispatched from Feltham station, almost seven miles from Heathrow.
Three other ambulances were despatched including one based at Heathrow airport station which did not arrive until 7.41am.
Mr Coles was finally taken to hospital at 8.22am, but witnesses suggested he was already dead by then.
As Heathrow is on private land, its roads are not governed by the Road Safety Act under which motorists found guilty of dangerous driving can be jailed for up to 14 years.
The Coles family believe there must be a change in the law to protect airport workers.
Mr Coles’s father Richard, 76, said: ‘If you told a member of the public that if you became ill at Heathrow or involved in an accident your first point of contact would be a guy rolling up on bike to assess your condition, people would think you must be joking.’
A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘We are fully co-operating with the police in their investigation into this incident.’
London Ambulance Service said: ‘Based on the information given on all the calls, we arrived on scene to treat Mr Coles within the national target response times.’