The family of a prisoner who choked to death lying face down in his cell with dried Weet-Bix around his mouth have accused staff of negligence after pleas to save his life were allegedly ignored.
Vincent Kuru-Nathan, 21, died in his cell at a prison in Christchurch, New Zealand on May 15 last year after vomiting up his breakfast and choking on it.
The delay in responding to an alert from another inmate was one of many issues that occurred on the day of the prisoner’s death, a report has found.
Vincent Kuru-Nathan, 21, (pictured) died in his cell at a prison in Christchurch, New Zealand on May 15 last year
His mother Missy Kuru said staff ‘dropped the ball’, and prisoners were entitled to the same rights as everyone else.
‘You’re talking about someone’s life,’ she told Stuff.
The prisons inspectorate report said Kuru-Nathan had gone to the dining area at 7.12am and returned to his cell with his breakfast.
He was last seen alive when he opened his cell door to put rubbish in a bin at 7.48am. He was called to report for work through an intercom but did not respond.
Ms Kuru said a relative of the prisoner who raised the alarm told her there was dried Weet-Bix around her son’s mouth when he was discovered.
A prisoner found him lying face down in his cell and called for staff. When another prisoner called for help over the intercom staff did not take him seriously, it has been alleged. More prisoners arrived to help, finding Kuru-Nathan warm but ‘bluish’.
He was placed in the recovery position as they, again, called for help.
Over the intercom, a senior staff member told them to go to medical.
‘The [officer] appeared not to understand the seriousness of the situation,’ the report said.
Once a custodial officer arrived Kuru-Nathan was lifted on to the bed and chest compressions began. A prisoner assisted in giving mouth to mouth. It took seven minutes to find the defibrillator following confusion over where the vital medical item was kept.
Vincent Kuru-Nathan, 21, (pictured) was found lying face down in his cell in Christchurch, New Zealand on May 15 last year
After being unable to find a shockable heart rhythm Kuru-Nathan had turned blue. When an emergency medical call was made the nurse was not wearing his earpiece and did not hear the call.
A guard alerted the nurse but there was another delay, it was ‘impractical’ to run the nurse’s 25kg emergency bag 360m to the cell, the report said. Then the medical car was unable to be driven because its windscreen was frosted over.
A prison van was then used instead, but there was another interruption. The decision was made to drop three prisoners at their units on the way which caused a further two-minute delay.
The nurse arrived nine minutes after the emergency call was made.
Chest compressions continued until an ambulance arrived.
Vincent Kuru-Nathan, 21, (pictured) had been in the low security unit at the prison when another inmate found him lying face down on the floor of his cell
Kuru-Nathan was pronounced dead at 8.48am. A post mortem found he died due to asphyxia resulting from aspiration of gastric contents.
He had been in the prisons low security Te Ahuhu unit, serving a three-year, sentence for a number of offences including an assault which left a man with severe brain injuries.
Regional commissioner of Corrections Ben Clark said changes had been implemented to ensure staff respond appropriately to emergency calls. There were also instruments added to prison vehicles to de-ice vehicles.
The coroner’s file remains open.