Widow settles action over husband’s death after ambulance crash delayed hospital arrival

Widow Settles Action Over Husband’s Death After Ambulance Crash Delayed Hospital Arrival
The man being taken to hospital by ambulance died when he had a heart attack after the ambulance crashed into a toll plaza barrier on the M3 motorway. Photo: PA Images
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High Court reporters

A 74-year-old man being transported to hospital by ambulance died when he had a heart attack after the vehicle crashed into a toll plaza barrier on the M3 motorway and there was an "inexcusable" delay in getting him to hospital, the High Court has heard.

Father of six and grandfather to eleven James Walsh became breathless and panicky after the toll plaza crash, which exacerbated his extremely serious condition when he was being brought to hospital suffering from chest pains, Mr Justice Paul Coffey was told.


Senior counsel Dr John O'Mahony SC, with Harold Brooks BL, told the court the ambulance went in the incorrect lane at the M3 Blackbull Toll Plaza and crashed into the barrier. The ambulance had to reverse out of the lane and another ambulance was called.

There was, counsel said, an "unnecessary and inordinate delay" because Mr Walsh's ambulance waited for a second ambulance to arrive. Mr Walsh's wife Josephine, counsel said, was in the ambulance with her husband when he was in a dire and critical condition.

"The big mistake was that the first ambulance did not continue to hospital after the crash. If it had, Mr Walsh would have arrived at the Mater Hospital, Dublin in a timely manner and life-saving measures would have been carried out," counsel said.

"Mr Walsh was very, very delayed and he died within minutes of arriving at James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown where the ambulance diverted to," counsel said.



Josephine Walsh, who sued the HSE and the National Ambulance Service, settled a High Court action on Friday over her husband’s death. The terms of the settlement are confidential and liability was admitted in the case.

It has been admitted that the collision with the M3 Blackbull Toll Plaza outside Dunboyne, Co Meath on September 29th, 2017 and the consequential delay prevented Mr Walsh's timely arrival at the Mater Hospital, Dublin where it is admitted he would have, on the balance of probabilities, received life-saving treatment.

As part of the settlement in court, a letter was read out from the National Ambulance Service which offered its sincere apologies to Mrs Walsh and her family for the circumstances surrounding her husband's death.

The letter from the chief ambulance officer Paul Gallen also acknowledged the distress and the upset suffered by the Walsh family.


It said: “I wish to extend my deepest condolences and sympathies to you on the death of your husband, James Walsh, on 29th September 2017. We acknowledge the distress and upset suffered by you at this time.”

It added: “Whilst every effort is made to deliver high quality, safe services in the National Ambulance Service, there are times when the patient/family experience is not what is expected. We will work to ensure that we take the learning from your experience so that the circumstances during transfer of your husband James to hospital do not reoccur.”

Feeling unwell

Josephine Walsh (73) from Culmullen, Drumree, Co Meath sued the HSE and the National Ambulance Service over the death of her husband.

Mr Walsh on September 29th, 2017 was not feeling well and his wife rang two GPs who were unable to give him an appointment.


She then rang the emergency services at 5.22pm. A group of first responders arrived at the Walsh home and Mr Walsh was given aspirin at 5.38pm.

A second group of first responders and an ambulance arrived to the Walsh home at 5.53pm.

The ambulance crew noted and recorded that Mr Walsh had chest pains on and off for two days and earlier in the evening had an acute episode of chest pain. The ambulance left the Walsh home at 6pm and Mr Walsh was started on oxygen.

It was recorded that the Mater University Hospital refused to take Mr Walsh at 6.04pm but 15 minutes later accepted him.


However, the ambulance taking Mr Walsh to the hospital collided with the barriers of the M3 toll plaza. A skylight was damaged and glass entered the cab. Mr Walsh became breathless and panicky, wanting to get out of the ambulance.

It was noted he had a cardiac arrest at 6.46pm.

A second ambulance was requested and Mr Walsh's ambulance waited for it to arrive. They met at the Dunboyne Slip road and CPR was commenced.

Mr Walsh's ambulance diverted to James Connolly Memorial Hospital and arrived at 7.17pm, but the pensioner was pronounced dead at 7.32pm.


It was claimed there was a delay in enabling Mr Walsh to receive proper urgent care and treatment of his heart attack and a protracted or unreasonable delay in bringing him to hospital was caused by the toll barrier collision.

Mr Walsh, it was further claimed, suffered cardiac arrhythmia leading to cardiac arrest and ultimate death as a result of stress caused to him from the crash.

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There was also, it was claimed, an unreasonable delay by the initial refusal by the specialist heart centre in the Mater Hospital, Dublin when they knew or ought to have known that by such refusal Mr Walsh was at risk of serious injury or death.

When the collision occurred, it was claimed Mrs Walsh feared for her own and her husband's lives. As a result, she has post-traumatic stress disorder and suffers flashbacks.

Noting the settlement and the distribution of the solarium, which in this case is €35,000, Mr Justice Paul Coffey extended his sympathy to Mrs Walsh and her family.

The judge said it was a sad and tragic case where Mrs Walsh's husband was only moments away from having his life saved.

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