Jamie Hulse inquest: full details about tragic death of St Albans father
- Credit: photo supplied
In mid-July last year, St Albans couple Sally and Jamie Hulse arrived at plush Moroccan hotel, Kasbah Tamadot, a Tripadvisor (UK) 2014 travellers’ choice award winner for top luxury hotel.
But just three days into their four-day Virgin holiday, Jamie died following a tragic quad bike accident.
Last week, Herts Coroner Geoffrey Sullivan concluded that the 47-year-old father of three had died from multiple traumatic injuries, and that the quad bike’s defects contributed to his death on July 16, 2014.
Disturbing details of the bike’s many deficiencies and the carelessness of the guide who ultimately led Jamie to the place of his death, a dusty, narrow mountain track, were revealed during the two-day inquest.
The activity was offered through a third party provider but, by all accounts, promoted by the hotel itself, and indeed by staff, who led guests such as Jamie to believe that it was run in-house.
Kasbah Tamadot’s website says that when Sir Richard Branson bought the hotel, “we set up free English classes for the local population”.
Unfortunately for Jamie, the guide leading him and fellow holiday-makers on the July 16 excursion appeared to know very little English, preferring to use hand gestures – pointing them in particular to sign liability disclaimer documents which warned that the activity was dangerous and could result in injury, disability or death, and that participants might go to remote places with little or no medical facilities.
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Unfortunately for Jamie, that risk became reality and, according to the harrowing account of witnesses attending the inquest, he received poor medical care from the moment he and his bike were discovered by the hapless guide, plunged 100 feet down a steep, rocky slope.
No first aid kit was taken by the guide. He had initially led a six-strong group, including teenagers, onto a busy lorry-laden road - while chatting on his mobile phone - after a brief practice session near the hotel.
According to witness Ric Ramswell, they were eventually taken off-road, “up very narrow roads, which weren’t really roads, more a track with a sheer drop with just enough room for one quad bike”.
Fellow witness Reuben Fuller, who had joined Ric and Jamie on the excursion, recalled: “I could see steep drops a few feet from the edge of the track. Sometimes the quad bikes would conk out. They conked out when they slowed or stopped.
“I noticed Jamie wasn’t there. I looked around and said, ‘Where is Jamie?’ The guide said he didn’t know.”
After he was located at the bottom of sheer drop, Ric, who with Reuben tried to comfort the stricken man while awaiting an ambulance, said that Jamie appeared unconscious, with a broken arm and leg.
There was blood coming from his mouth and nose, and his helmet was lying seven metres away, near the bike – the guide later said he had taken the headgear off.
Ric told the Herts Coroners’ Court the ambulance appeared to be “a converted estate car”, while Reuben said: “The ambulance driver came down [the slope] in flip-flops. I remember saying, ‘what the ****?’ It was ridiculous.”
Reuben said that little care was taken with Jamie’s transferral from the rocky ground to the ambulance, with his arm flopping over the side of a stretcher. Also, there was no brace to protect either his neck or head. He died en route to a hospital in Marrakech.
When quad bike expert Andy Heitman examined the bike, which had been stored for 12 months after Jamie’s fatal accident, he found a catalogue of defects.
He told the court the front left tyre had been fitted the wrong way around which could have potentially pulled it to one side of the road. But under questioning from Virgin Limited Edition’s counsel, Prashant Popat, Andy agreed that might have occurred following the accident.
The expert discovered that the throttle was on full power, when “just 30 per cent” would have sufficed, given the route’s terrain. He said “the oil was completely gone” in the rear suspension. The helmet supplied to Jamie was too large and would have been “extremely loose”.
Andy also checked the route taken by the group, and while not technically difficult he considered it, “the most hazardous … any error could end up with a fatality or serious injury”.