Northamptonshire coroner calls for new safety measures following inquest into Harry Dunn's tragic death

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The inquest into Harry Dunn's tragic death has highlighted calls for improved safety measures and training for foreign personnel driving in the UK.

The final day of the inquest into the death of Harry Dunn took place today (Thursday, June 13).

Senior Coroner for Northamptonshire Anne Pember described him as a "highly principled and disciplined young man, full of unfulfilled promise with a cheeky, mischievous people-pleaser streak."

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Harry, described as a ‘passionate’ and ‘highly capable’ motorbike rider, tragically lost his life in a collision near RAF Croughton on August 27, 2019.

Harry DunnHarry Dunn
Harry Dunn

The 19 year old was riding his motorbike when he was hit by a Volvo XC90 SUV traveling entirely in his lane just 350 metres away from RAF Croughton on the B4031. The coroner said: "There was a head-on collision. Harry suffered catastrophic and...fatal injuries."

Responsibility for the tragic accident has been accepted by Ann Sacoolas, an employee of the US Government whose husband was stationed at RAF Croughton. Sacoolas, who had recently arrived in the UK, pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving. The coroner said: "Mrs. Sacoolas has accepted responsibility for this tragedy. She did so immediately at the scene and has since pleaded guilty to the offence for causing death by careless driving."

Sacoolas rejected Ms Pember’s invitation to attend the inquest via an online connection.

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Coroner Pember clarified that her investigation was not to establish guilt, which had already been determined by the criminal courts. Instead, her focus included broader issues such as training and emergency response. The coroner said: "The US Government had responsibility for the induction and training of its US personnel based at RAF Croughton. I take that to include a broad responsibility and to account for both military and diplomatic personnel."

However, it remains unclear whether Ann Sacoolas received any driver training specific to UK roads, as the US Embassy has neither confirmed nor denied the provision of such training. Sacoolas revealed she had not received any training for driving on UK road at all.

The coroner said: "The US Embassy has neither confirmed nor denied a lack of driver training to newcomers attached to the US’ mission based at RAF Croughton. It merely identifies it holds no record of training provided to Ann Sacoolas."

The inquest revealed significant pressures on the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) at the time of the accident, with demand outstripping available resources. This situation was exacerbated by delays in hospital handovers, a persistent national issue. Despite these challenges, the medical teams that attended to Dunn provided ‘exemplary’ care. The coroner said: "I’m satisfied that the medical teams that did attend to Harry provided exemplary and highly advanced care to him."

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Despite these efforts, Dunn's injuries were too severe. The coroner said: "Sadly, Harry’s injury load was too high despite these efforts and he entered cardiac arrest at the point of handover to the team waiting for him at the John Radcliffe Hospital. Despite immediate and extensive resuscitation efforts, he died at 10:50pm on August 27, 2019."

Ms Pember concluded that Dunn died from severe injuries sustained in the head-on collision caused by a vehicle being driven on the wrong side of the road. She raised several matters for the prevention of future deaths, emphasising the need for improvements in emergency medical services and training for foreign personnel driving in the UK.

Ms Pember highlighted the importance of having the ability to administer analgesia earlier, ‘as without the ability to administer analgesia other than intravenously, Harry could not have been moved’. She has also contacted the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care regarding the ambulance service's struggles and has called for appropriate driver training for US personnel at RAF Croughton to prevent such tragedies. The coroner said: "I shall be addressing this to the American section of the Foreign and Commonwealth and Development Office, to the Ministry Of Defence (MoD) police and to the MoD more generally."

Ms Pember commended Dunn’s parents, Mrs Charlotte Charles and Mr Tim Dunn, for their sustained advocacy on behalf of their son, praising their courage and dignity throughout the hearing. The coroner said: "I have been immensely impressed by your commitment to the process and your courage and dignity you have displayed during this hearing."

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Northamptonshire Police’s assistant Chief Constable Emma James, said: “We note the findings of HM Coroner Anne Pember at the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Harry Dunn.

“Our sincere condolences remain with Harry’s family and friends, as we approach the five-year anniversary of his tragic death.”

Radd Seiger, speaking on behalf of Harry Dunn's family, released a statement expressing deep frustration and grief with the US Government’s handling of the case.

The statement said: "It was not enough for them to kill Harry. It wasn’t enough for them to then kick Harry’s family in their darkest hour and seek to deny and delay the justice that they were entitled to. As we have all seen this week, their attitude and approach to keeping their British hosts safe has been laid bare, and they have positively obstructed the Coroner’s inquiry and deprived the family of the answers they were entitled to as to why no one has ever addressed the issue of safety of UK citizens.

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“The next question is why have the UK Governments over the years been happy to sit on the sidelines watching this scandal unfold. This Tory Government have refused to get involved. Labour have promised us a public inquiry into the way we were treated and the failure on the part of both governments over the decades to address the issue of safety, which has led to thousands of people being killed and seriously injured. The UK Government have also now seen how the US Government treats our courts and judges. The question for the next British government is are they just going to stand by and let the Americans continue to treat us all and our lives with such contempt.

“The US ambassador at the time of Harry’s death was Woody Johnson. He told the UK Government after he died that there were far more important things than Harry’s life. That is the American government’s position. The lives of UK citizens like Harry ultimately do not matter. We won’t let them get away with it and we look forward to working with the next government to establish this public inquiry. We were all horrified as a nation to see how the US government treated Harry’s family. This must never happen again. The American national anthem ends 'land of the free, home of the brave.' Home of the brave! They haven’t demonstrated an ounce of bravery at all, preferring to run, hide, and obstruct."