Inquest into “unusual” death of Coleraine man

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THE death of a Coleraine man who was sat upon to restrain him has been described by a coroner as “a disaster waiting”.

Coroner John Leckey was conducting an inquest into the death of 21-year-old Mark Carson from Loughanhill who died last year as a result of “crush asphyxia and positional asphyxia”.

The inquest heard that Mr Carson had been found in an agitated state on January 23rd last year and was restrained on the floor by having his legs held and someone sitting on his chest as he lay face down.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Alastair Bentley told the hearing that the weight of a person sitting on Mr Carson’s chest would have restricted the movement in the chest and would have interfered with his breathing,

Such an action, he said, would have been “life-threatening”.

He added that lying on his front would have “interfered with his ability to breathe”.

Dr Bentley said that while Mr Carson was heavily intoxicated, more then three times over the legal drink driving limit, he was “considerably below the level where one would ascribe death to acute alcohol intoxication”. There were no traces of drugs in his system.

Dr Bentley said that, of course it is possible to breathe while lying face down - many people sleep in this position - but not, he said, lying face down with a person’s full weight on your chest.

Dr Bentley said it was impossible to say for definite how long it would have been before Mr Carson stopped breathing.

He said other factors would have contributed to his death including struggling due to his agitated state which would have exhausted him and the amount of adrenalin in his body which would have left his heart more prone to a sudden cardiac arrest.

“There are multiple contributing factors but I would say minutes,” said Dr Bentley.

A PSNI constable told the court that a police file had been sent to the Public Prosecution Service but they had directed that there be no prosecution arising from Mr Carson’s death.

Mr Carson’s mother Karen told the court that most members of her family had had to restrain Mark at one time or another when he became agitated after drinking alcohol.

Saoirse McGrotty, wife of Mr Carson’s uncle, also told the hearing that when she came on the scene last year, she saw Mark being restrained by his mother and stepfather.

She said she and her husband had been alerted to the fact that Mark “was kicking off” again. She said it was not unusual to see Mark being restrained after drinking heavily.

She said they were all aware that his “behaviour changed when Mark took alcohol”.

Corner John Leckey said he had never come across such a case and described it as “bizarre” and “most unusual”.

He found that the cause of death was crush asphyxia and positional asphyxia.

Mr Leckey said the case highlighted the “dangers inherent in trying to restrain someone by sitting on their chest”.

“The potential for death was very high,” he concluded.

Mr Leckey concluded the inquest by offering his sympathy to Mr Carson’s mother and the entire family circle.