Coroner absolves school of blame in young boy’s death

Rasharn Williams

Rasharn Williams - Credit: Archant

A coroner has ruled a school’s emergency procedures were not to blame for the delay in calling an ambulance for a young boy who fell ill during a Halloween party and died in hospital soon afterwards.

Poplar Coroner’s Court heard how Liz Ewan, a teacher at Berger School, in Anderson Road, Homerton, found nine-year-old Rasharn Williams sitting on a wall crying during the disco on October 23.

Rasharn, who was born with a hole in his heart and was under the care of a specialist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, was taken to the school office at 4.30pm where a temporary admin worker described how he was in “an unusual state”, staring straight ahead with glazed eyes, and asked whether she should call an ambulance.

But a more senior worker and first aider recognised breathlessness as part of his medical condition when overexerted, and believed he was having a panic attack so instead asked for his mother to be called.

An ambulance was finally called at 4.54pm after Rasharn’s mother arrived, and he went into cardiac arrest 20 minutes later. He was taken to Homerton Hospital where he died just before 7pm.

A barrister acting for the family urged the judge to return a narrative verdict saying the issues the case had flagged up could lead to a similar risk at other schools, including a failure to share information regarding Rasharn’s condition with all staff and a delay in calling the ambulance.

But coroner Mary Hassell found there was just a seven minute delay in calling an ambulance, from the time Rasharn began falling off the chair he was sitting on at 4.47pm – which she believes indicated the start of him going in and out of seizures which was the “emergency situation”.

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She continued: “It seems to me staff did understand what to do and what an emergency was. The fact that an ambulance wasn’t called at that stage wasn’t about the system but about judgement of an individual, she said she would have called an ambulance if she thought he was fitting.

“The evidence I have is that by the time of the arrest there was very little that could have been done for Rasharn although the doctors did all they could.”

She ruled death by natural causes from hypoxia and general seizures, with an underlying congenital heart disease and severe pulmonary hypertension.

His mother Lorna Williams described how he was a “happy go lucky little boy” who tried to live life like any other little boy.

“He had good quality of life despite his difficulties, I changed him into his costume in the car, we got out of the car, he said: ‘mum I’ll see you when you come back, I love you so much.’

“I just can’t stop thinking and wondering if an ambulance had been called at the beginning, if it would have saved my son. I will never know.”