Family Statement Following Conclusion Of Inquest Into Death Of Air Cadet At Training Camp

Family Says They Hope Lessons Will Be Learnt


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

The family of a 14-year-old air cadet who died at an RAF training camp after issues with supervision and communication say they are still devastated by his death and hope lessons will be learnt from the tragedy.

David Karo Dibie Efemena was 14-years-old when he died in March 2014 during a camping trip at Bramley Defence Training Estate in Hampshire after falling ill during the night while the nearest adults were over a mile away.

His parents Zoe Mukoro-Dibie and Felix Efemena Dibie. have instructed specialist military injuries lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his death and to represent them at the inquest.

An inquest into the death at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court heard how it took half-an-hour from other cadets raising the alarm before adult supervisors arrived from their own camp over a mile away. Concerns were raised about the lack of supervision, radios had not been tested and the cadets did not have access to a mobile phone for emergencies.

The coroner recorded a narrative verdict saying she did not consider that the failings of the way the camp was run contributed to the "hard-working, diligent" teenager's death but she made recommendations to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in relation to the use of defibrillators and a new policy regarding communications.

The family issued the following statement following the conclusion of the hearing: “The Inquest has been a very difficult period for our family as we have heard the accounts of the witnesses on the hours leading up to David’s death which has been painful to listen to. We are extremely glad that this process is now over and we thank our family and friends for their support.

“The weekend David died was his first overnight trip with the Cadets.  We had no idea before the exercise that adults would be sleeping 1.9 km away from David and that a 17 year old and an 18 year old would be left in charge overnight. It is shocking that the exercise did not comply with the MOD’s procedures including when new risk assessments were triggered and that the adults were not contactable as the radios were out of range.  There are questions as to the judgment of the seriousness of the situation and clearly there was too much responsibility on the shoulders of young people.

“We are in no doubt having heard the evidence from those in charge of the exercise that the supervision of the exercise on the night David died was completely inadequate. We hope that lessons have been learnt but it is devastating for us that this is at such a cost. Our hope now is that David’s death has made organisers of overnight activities whether it be a school trip, cadets, scouts or brownies, pay close attention to their risk assessments and ensure that there is adequate supervision.

“We wish to thank the Coroner for holding this Inquest. It took almost 4 months before David was released for burial even though the first Coroner, Andrew Bradley had decided that there would be no Inquest. This was a major hurdle to overcome and Jon Cruddas MP and Irwin Mitchell assisted us with this.

“We have always felt that there were questions to be answered and the inquest has gone some way to answering those questions. From the beginning we felt that authorisation, communication, supervision and timings were the areas that required answers. We feel that there are still some questions to be answered particularly on the issue of timings. None of the evidence we heard will stop us asking what if there had been an adult on site. We are not persuaded that David was given the best chance of survival in the hours leading to his death when every moment counted and this is hard for us to deal with.

“David was a very special boy. He was bright, mature and had worked hard on persuading us to allow him to join the Cadets for over a year and was so excited when we finally agreed to this. One of the reasons for joining was because he wanted to become aeronautical engineer.

“The comments we received in letters to David from his class mates after his death best sum up how loved and well thought of he was and we would like to share a few of those. “You were the kindest person I knew”, “Always a friend and always there for me”, “the calmest guy ever, no one had a bad word about him” and “a bright, lively and unique person who was loved by all”.

“From an early age he was determined focussed hard working, caring and persevered under challenges which was reflected at all the schools he attended. He is the son that all parents would want to have. He sorely missed having left home expecting to return on Sunday 23rd March 2014.”

Geraldine McCool, head of the military injuries claims team at Irwin Mitchell, representing the family is a member of the solicitors group for the charity Inquest and specialises in military deaths. She was contacted by the family when the initial decision not to hold an Inquest was made. Geraldine made submissions on behalf of the family to ask for a reconsideration paving the way for this full hearing to go ahead.

Expert Opinion
"This was a truly tragic incident and the family was distraught at losing David. They wish to thank the coroner for investigating the circumstances surrounding his death but it has been very difficult for them to listen to the evidence which has raised many questions about what happened that day.

"They feel incredibly let down by those that were charged with looking after their son on the training camp and they do not feel that they had sufficient information about the exercise in advance.

“What is most surprising is that the exercise did not comply with a number of elements of their own risk assessment, which is something that had been flagged in previous inquests. There was too much responsibility put on the shoulders of young people as well as issues with communications and supervision.”
Geraldine McCool, Partner

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Military Injuries Claims including Fatal Military Claims.

Samantha Jones was instructed as Counsel by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors on behalf of the family