The death of a two-year-old boy who choked on a piece of sausage at a Butlin’s holiday park was accidental, an inquest has concluded.
James Manning had been enjoying a trip to Bognor Regis in West Sussex in June 2018 with his mother and grandmother when tragedy struck.
The two women were visibly emotional in court as the coroner told them that the cheerful toddler, who had enlarged tonsils, had been let down by the NHS but that earlier intervention might not have saved his life.
An inquest into James’ death previously heard that Butlin’s staff did not help when the youngster began choking outside a restaurant at the popular resort, a claim the holiday company does not accept.
Paramedics raced to aid the toddler after being forced to abandon their ambulance and dash on foot when they found the road blocked by closed gates and bollards, the hearing was told.
On Friday, assistant coroner Karen Harrold concluded that James’s death was accidental.
She said: “The NHS did let James down as an earlier intervention may have reduced the chances of James choking on 6th of June, but I cannot conclude that James’ life would have been saved by an earlier intervention.
“This was a fast-moving, distressing incident for everyone involved in the effort to save James’ life.”
She added that the gravity of the circumstances meant that earlier intervention from the paramedics could not have saved his life.
Turning to his mother and grandmother, Mrs Harrold said the conclusion of accidental death was “in no way intended to trivialise what can only be described as a horrendous occasion that occurred on the 6th of June and I am sure will remain with you for life
“My heart goes out to you.”
James’ distraught grandmother, Angela Knight, had claimed that had he had earlier treatment he would have still been alive.
The toddler’s mother, Natalie Reeves, bowed her head as the coroner told the hearing in Crawley, West Sussex, about the lead-up to James’s death.
She and members of her family wore T-shirts dedicated to her son, with hers reading “Justice For James”.
During the emotional inquest last year, Ms Reeves recalled the heartbreaking incident at the resort.
She told the hearing “it seemed like everybody was just standing around” while two holidaymakers gave CPR to James.
Just days before the tragedy, Ms Reeves had called to ask about James’ place on a hospital waiting list, and told a hospital secretary: “If you do not do something for my son, something bad is going to happen.”
She described her son as “a very clever boy” who “loved helping out, getting involved”.
They had been eating breakfast in the packed Ocean Drive restaurant when he got into difficulty.
James, from Battle in East Sussex, was eventually taken to hospital but died two weeks later on June 20, 2018.
The inquest resumed this month following a lengthy adjournment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jon Hendry Pickup, Managing Director at Butlin’s, said: “James’ death was a tragedy and we continue to send our condolences to his family and friends. No words can begin to address their loss.
“The safety and wellbeing of our guests is of utmost importance and we continually look to learn from any incident that happens on our sites to ensure we keep everyone as safe as possible.”