Elm Park air cadet’s death ‘could not have been avoided’ coroner rules

David Efemena, 14, of Elm Park, died while on a RAF cadet camping trip in Hampshire

David Efemena, 14, of Elm Park, died while on a RAF cadet camping trip in Hampshire - Credit: Archant

A coroner has made several recommendations to the RAF after 14-year-old David Efemena died at a cadet training camp.

David Efemena, of the 1838 Elm Park Air Training Corps Squadron, died on March 23 last year in a make-shift tent while on a weekend trip to the Bramley Defence Training Estate in Hampshire.

A fellow cadet recalled being woken up about 10 times by “gargling and coughing” noises coming from David but it was only in the morning that staff cadet Craig Barrett was alerted to his condition as he “appeared lifeless” at 6.30am.

Assistant deputy coroner Nadia Persaud told Walthamstow Coroner’s Court today that the primary cause of the teen’s death was caused by an artery lodged between two main valves, reducing blood flow to the heart and a seizure following reports provided by numerous doctors.

She said: “With this anomaly, it would have been very difficult to resuscitate him even with medical attention on the scene.

“It is my view that there was no evidence during the course of the inquest that there was a real prospect of David’s death being avoided.”

Squadron leaders were based 1.9km away from the cadets and Craig Barrett, who was 18 at the time, struggled to get hold of the adult supervisors using a two-way radio when he attempted to inform them of David’s deteriorating condition.

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Ms Persaud said she did not consider the way the camp was run contributed to the teenager’s death but recommended the RAF should have defibrillators on cadet training exercises as well as communication checks before sleeping.

Geraldine McCool, representing the family, read out a statement following the inquest which said: “We have always felt that there were questions to be answered and the inquest has gone some way to answering those questions.

“From the beginning we felt that authorisation, communication, supervision and timings were the areas that required answers. “We feel that there are still some questions to be answered particularly on the issue of timings.

“None of the evidence we heard will stop us asking what if there had been an adult on site.

“We are not persuaded that David was given the best chance of survival in the hours leading to his death when every moment counted and this is hard for us to deal with.”

Air Cdre Dawn McCafferty from Commandant Air Cadet Organisation, said: “On behalf of the Royal Air Force and the Air Cadet Organisation, I offer my sincere condolences to the family of Cadet David Efemena, who tragically died on 23 March 2014. Although his time spent with the cadets was all too brief, David had already shown great promise and was popular among his peers.

“While the coroner has concluded that earlier medical intervention would not have saved his life, lessons have rightly been learnt from this case and we have thoroughly reviewed the procedure for all field craft activities to make sure this popular part of the Air Cadet experience can continue.

“Supervision levels, communications and emergency procedures have all been reviewed to reassure parents that the safety of every cadet is our greatest priority.

“David’s death was keenly felt by the close-knit Elm Park Air Cadet Squadron and our thoughts remain with his friends and family at this difficult time.”