Death of Suffolk-based soldier who collapsed during heatwave may have been avoidable, report finds

Sapper Connor Morrison Credit: PA

A soldier who died from exertional heatstroke may have survived if he had been treated earlier, a report has found.

Sapper Connor Morrison, 20, who was stationed in Woodbridge, Suffolk, collapsed during a group run on 21 July 2022.

Spr Morrison, of 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment, was taken to hospital by the East of England Ambulance Service and spent time in intensive care but died two days later.

The symptoms displayed by him during the run were “consistent” with heatstroke, according to an inquiry by a Defence Safety Authority panel who concluded “on the balance of probabilities Sapper Morrison’s cause of death was exertional heatstroke”.

But the report added that “there were sufficient indicators to support an immediate diagnosis of heatstroke but this was not acted upon immediately."

Connor Morrison was described as 'selfless and kind-hearted' by the Ministry of Defence Credit: Facebook/West Lowland Battalion Army Cadet Force.

It said: “The symptoms had become apparent during the latter stages of the run when participants had witnessed Spr Morrison’s inability, he was seen weaving from side-to-side.

“In the opinion of the panel this late diagnosis of heatstroke may have significantly reduced Spr Morrison’s chances of survival and was a contributory factor.”

His collapse followed several days of hot weather in Suffolk.

Two days earlier, on 19 July, a new UK record high temperature of 40.3C had been recorded.

Before he collapsed Spr Morrison was “observed to be struggling on the run whilst another soldier was encouraging him”.

He was running at a slower pace to others in the group but was able to hold conversation.

The war memorial at Rock Barracks, Woodbridge, Suffolk Credit: Chris Radburn/PA

The DSA made 41 recommendations, as it sought to try to help reduce future risks while maintaining physical training.

It states: “From the point of collapse it became apparent that water would be needed to aid cooling.

“However, treatment for heat collapse was not initiated until 31 minutes after collapse and the only fluids available was water obtained by a nurse who took the decision to obtain some from a local shop, and that contained within 1 litre eye irrigation bottles carried within the ambulance.

“Had water been immediately available amongst the group, cooling treatment may have been initiated earlier.”

It is now recommended that units have water that is available during physical activity, the report states.

The report panel stated: “When active measures were applied it may have been too late to be effective.

“Medical tests completed in the ambulance clearly indicated the effects of heatstroke in the body and established that Spr Morrison was in a life-threatening condition.”

Clinical decision-making was potentially hindered as there was mutual understanding of who was present and their respective medical abilities.

The panel found that the clinical guidance on heatstroke issued to ambulance personnel was insufficient.

An army spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies remain with Sapper Morrison’s family and friends at this difficult time.

“We take our responsibilities as an organisation extremely seriously and are wholly committed to improving organisational learning to minimise the chances of repetition.

“We will review and action the recommendations made in the report as a matter of urgency.”

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