Family agony at Welsh Ambulance Service delay for burns victim

  • Published
Chris Williams-Ellis is in an induced coma in hospitalImage source, Catherine Stewart
Image caption,
Chris Williams-Ellis remains in an induced coma with life-changing injuries

The family of a man seriously ill in hospital with severe burns has demanded to know why it took an hour and a half for an ambulance to arrive.

Chris Williams-Ellis, 40, suffered 45% burns to his body following the blaze at his home near Corwen, Denbighshire.

His family said it took "several" 999 calls for an ambulance to arrive before he was air-lifted to hospital.

The Welsh Ambulance Service Trust has apologised for the "unacceptable delay" and is investigating.

Mr Williams-Ellis was in a mechanic pit working on a car in the garage of his home at Bryn Saith Marchog when the car caught fire above him.

Trapped under the vehicle, his partner Catherine Stewart helped pull him free before dialling 999. She suffered minor injuries and smoke inhalation during the rescue.

Image source, Catherine Stewart
Image caption,
The blaze on 8 September destroyed the couple's garage and three cars

"I asked for an ambulance and told them 'he's on fire, he can't breathe' and that we needed a fire engine," said Ms Stewart.

"They called me back two minutes later and told me to put him under water for his burns.

"The fire engine arrived after 25 minutes but when I asked where the ambulance was they had not been told there was a casualty and they didn't have the training to deal with burns victims.

"Chris was lying there, very white and shaking. It was so stressful. I kept phoning 999 asking where the ambulance was. The firemen were ringing as well.

"It was only because one of the fireman happened to have the contact number for the Welsh Air Ambulance service and the helicopter arrived at the same time as the ambulance."

Image caption,
Mr Williams-Ellis had been in the mechanic pit when the fire broke out above him

Two hours after the initial 999 call, Mr Williams-Ellis was taken to Whiston Hospital, in Merseyside, where he underwent skin grafts.

However, he developed pneumonia and was transferred to Wythenshawe Hospital, Greater Manchester, and placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine to take over his heart and lung functions.

"I was told there was a 50-50 survival rate for people with that significant amount of burns to be on that machine," said Ms Stewart.

He is now in an induced coma and his family are unsure how his life-changing injuries will affect him.

Image source, Catherine Stewart
Image caption,
Catherine Stewart said Mr Williams-Ellis was "such a fighter"

His mother Philomene Williams-Ellis wants members of the Wales Ambulance Service NHS Trust (WAST) to be held accountable.

"I want justice for my son. To me he was left like a charred piece of meat and he deserves better," she said.

"It was three hours from when the accident happened to him having treatment in hospital.

"The Welsh Ambulance Service left my son burning, cold, dehydrated and in agony for hours.

"My son is only alive because a member of the fire crew rang the Wales Air Ambulance.

"I have no faith in the ambulance service and I want the board to be held responsible so this never happens to any other family again."

Image caption,
Philomene Ellis-Williams said she wants the WAST board to "stand down"

WAST said it was looking into the "distressing" events.

Chief executive Jason Killens said: "Given the very serious nature of what happened, an investigation to determine the exact sequence of events and the cause of the unacceptable delay - for which we are very sorry - is being prioritised and concluded as swiftly as possible.

"We are an organisation committed to learning and improvement, and have offered to meet the Williams-Ellis family to take them through our findings and any lessons identified in full."

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