Chef died after friends drove him to hospital instead of calling ambulance

By Twm Owen in Local People

A CHEF who hit his head after taking cocaine died when his friends failed to call an ambulance and drove him to hospital instead, an inquest heard.

Joel Symons was taken by car just after 1am to the War Memorial Hospital in Brecon, which doesn’t have an accident and emergency department, by a friend and her boyfriend.

She and two other men failed to call an ambulance to an address in Hay-on-Wye where the 24-year-old had started fitting and hit head after falling from a chair in the early hours of February 12.

The inquest, held in Aberdare, heard Joel and friend Jasmine Andrews had gone to the home of a Mark Jones in Carlsgate, Hay where Joel continued taking cocaine at around 11.30pm on the Saturday night.

But after snorting between 12 and 14 lines of cocaine Joel slid from a chair and started convulsing and fitting. Joel, who was born and grew up in Brecon, had suffered with cystic fibrosis.

Ms Andrews, the only witness called to give evidence at the hearing in Aberdare, said she asked Mr Jones to call an ambulance but he refused.

Joel was instead bundled into a small van owned by the other man present, Chris Carter, and driven to the home of Ms Andrews’ boyfriend, Brett Harvey, in nearby Brecon Road. He then drove Joel, who he believed to be already dead, the 15 miles to hospital in Brecon with Ms Andrews who tried to give mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Ms Andrews told the hearing: "I asked Mark to ring an ambulance and he said no."

She said her friend was stopping and starting fitting and had started to breath again.

"I kept asking them to call an ambulance and Mark refused. He asked me to dump him in the street. I said no, I couldn’t do that to him, just leave him in the street.

"They took him around to my boyfriend’s house. Carter and Jones put him into the van to my boyfriend’s house with me."

She said it had taken about half an hour from when the fitting started to getting Joel to hospital.

Ms Andrews was crying as she gave her evidence and the hearing was also stopped when Joel’s mother Judith broke down in tears.

Mrs Symons asked Ms Andrews why she hadn’t called an ambulance.

She told the witness: "As you are young and not a mother I hope you never experience anything like that. Any human being is capable of making a phone call. That was your decision I hope that haunts you for the rest of your life. I’m not saying that would have saved him, but why didn’t anyone make a call. It’s what Joel would have done."

Joel was pronounced dead outside the Breconshire War Memorial Hospital after nurses and a doctor tried to revive him.

The inquest also heard Joel had suffered with cystic fibrosis and began using cocaine heavily when he became depressed.

His girlfriend Bethan Sergeant, who he lived with in Hay, had challenged his use of the drug and argued with him about it earlier that day.

In a statement she said Joel had twice attempted to take his own life.

A post-mortem showed extremely high levels of cocaine in his blood of 8.4mg per litre indicating heavy and excessive use.

Senior coroner Andrew Barkley recorded a conclusion of drug related death.

He said: "It’s not possible for me or anyone less to say whether any action by others may have prevented this tragedy from unfolding."

Three people have been released on bail on suspicion of supplying class A drugs.

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