Essex boy, 12, who died suddenly ‘spent 11 hours’ unattended in …

A young boy who tragically collapsed and died at an Essex school was left unattended in the lift of a hospital for "around 11 hours", a court has heard. Ryan Heffernan-Surplice, 12, sadly died on March 28, 2022, at Shoeburyness High School after "slumping to the ground" suddenly.

A hearing at Essex Coroner's Court in Chelmsford heard on Friday (May 26) that Ryan had eaten his lunch, did not seem to be unwell and was playing with friends shortly before the incident. When he sadly collapsed, a teacher began providing immediate basic life support before an off-duty paramedic who was nearby provided further assistance.

Ryan, who was in Year Seven at Shoeburyness High School, was said to have no underlying health conditions which might have contributed to his death.

During the hearing, Coroner Sonia Hayes raised concern over a period of time in which Ryan's deceased body was said to have been left unattended whilst at a hospital, where he was undergoing a CT scan prior to a physical post-mortem examination. "In this case it did not impact the cause of death, but in another case it might," she said.

Pathologists who carried out post-mortems both agreed that this incident did not affect their examinations into investigating Ryan's cause of death.

Dr Liina Palm, giving evidence, referred to this by saying there was "a period of trouble staffing in the mortuary" and that, on his return journey from the scan, he was "left on his trolley in the lift".

Dr Martin Goddard added that there was no "significant decomposition" and that he was "completely unaware that it had happened and there was nothing which made me think this had not been properly stored or preserved."

Speaking on behalf of the hospital, a spokesperson said there had been "a situation" on the day of Ryan's arrival and that they had "half the number of staff that were due to be on duty".

Addressing the court, he said the lift would have taken Ryan down one floor, a journey which would have taken "a minute or so" to walk the same distance - something which an attendant would have had to do due to there not being enough room for them to be in the lift alongside a patient.

At some point, however, the attendant "regrettably got caught up elsewhere", was no longer on duty and they "did not have a handover procedure in place". Ryan was found again when someone needed to use the trolley that he was in, "around 11 hours" later.

An investigation into the circumstances of the incident was carried out by the hospital trust, which included them reporting themselves to both the police and to the regulator.

Mr Ifederu said: "One of the things this investigation has shone a light on is that we did not have a proper process in place. All our policies for communication and cooperation are being reviewed and we are using this as a point of reference for our learning.”

"I am very confident this won’t happen again. We had a very clear gap in the system that had to be filled."

Ryan was sadly 'not able to be helped'

Concluding the inquest hearing, Coroner Hayes said: "Ryan Heffernan-Surplice was a 12-year-old boy who lived at home with his parents and the rest of his family. He appeared to be a healthy boy with no health concerns.

"He was at school on March 28, 2022, and was outside playing with his friends. I am satisfied that nothing untoward happened. He appeared to bend over and clutch his chest, before quickly recovering and playing again.

"But very sadly he collapsed again. There were no injuries internally or externally. When he collapsed, a teacher was very quickly on the scene and almost immediately took urgent action. A paramedic attended within a few minutes.

"I'm satisfied that the call was at 13:16 and a paramedic there by 13:18. The helicopter was summoned very quickly, almost immediately, and I'm satisfied that the East of England Ambulance Service were already there providing care to Ryan.

"I'm satisfied that a short-term, ten second return of a heartbeat, was purely due to administered adrenaline. Essex Police investigated and there was no third party involvement."

Coroner Hayes added: "There are sadly a number of cardiac arrhythmic death syndrome which can cause sudden collapses and deaths, often coming without warning. I’m satisfied that’s what happened in Ryan’s case. It’s very tragic for Ryan’s family as he had all the hopes and dreams that his family had for him.

"I’m satisfied that he was not able to be helped. We’ve heard from Dr Goddard that it was a natural cause and no-one could have known. I’m going to say that even if someone had alerted someone, he would not have been saved."


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