West Somerset Coroner, Michael Rose, has criticised an ambulance team for failing to rescue an accident victim who was drowning in a ditch.

Michael Thornton, 30, was travelling through Somerset Levels last November, when the vehicle he was in crashed and turned upside down in a water-filled ditch at the side of the road. Upon arrival at the scene, the ambulance team conducted a ‘risk assessment’ and concluded that it was unsafe to enter the ditch. A policeman at the scene did subsequently enter the water and pull Mr. Thornton onto land; however by this time it was unfortunately too late.

Michael Rose has condemned the inactions of the paramedics and their failure to intervene and depart from health and safety procedure. He is reported to have voiced: “I was brought up in a country where men risked their own lives to save the lives of others. That was a period in our history which has almost ceased”.

At the inquest in Taunton, Somerset, South Western Ambulance Trust defended its staff, stating that they were “confident the crew made an appropriate risk assessment...and administered the best possible care”. The ambulance spokesman is also said to have acknowledged that “paramedics often have to make critical decisions in the most challenging of circumstances” and that, in this case, they “made exactly the right choices”.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded by the Coroner.