Army to change medical procedures after soldier killed by charging elephant
Written by on 31 October 2020
The Army is to make changes to its risk assessments and medical procedures after a soldier was killed by a charging elephant in Malawi last year.
Guardsman Mathew Talbot, 22, was fatally injured in Liwonde National Park as he took part in an anti-poaching operation.
An Army risk assessment, known as the “medical timeline”, said casualties should reach hospital within four hours of an incident.
But despite medics battling for four hours to save Guardsman Talbot’s life during an evacuation, he was still about three hours from the nearest hospital.
Shortcomings in estimating how long it may take to get a casualty from a remote location to a hospital have been highlighted in a Ministry of Defence (MoD) service inquiry.
Had Guardsman Talbot reached a hospital in Blantyre, 160km away, he would have had a 50%-60% chance of survival, the report said.
“The underestimation of the medical timeline and the resources in place to assure it were inadequate,” it concluded.
During the medical treatment, a vital signs monitor failed to work correctly, there were a lack of blood products and confusion over when powerful pain medication could be used on patients with head injuries and breathing trouble.
As a result, Guardsman Talbot, who joined the Army in 2013, had no pain relief while he was being transported.
Medics had to stop twice to carry out medical procedures, delaying the evacuation.
Three hours after the alarm had been raised, CPR was commenced.
Despite trying for 57 minutes to resuscitate Guardsman Talbot, medics were unable to save him.
The report has called for immediate improvements to training.
An inquest into the soldier’s death will take place at Oxford Coroner’s Court in due course.
His parents, Steven and Michelle Talbot, said: “When Matt passed away it was four hours and 17 minutes after the attack and it would have taken at least another three hours to get to the hospital in Blantyre.
“Those that are responsible for putting these risk assessments in place should hang their heads in shame if they think this is adequate for our brave serving soldiers who are prepared to put their lives on the line for Queen and country.
“This is not just about justice for Matt but also the lives of all the other brave soldiers, as we do not want other families to go through this.”
Brigadier Ben Cattermole, Commander 11 Brigade, said the Army’s “thoughts and sympathies” were with the bereaved.
He added: “The welfare of our personnel is of the utmost importance and the MoD has accepted all of the recommendations in this report, including robust training to better assess the risk of animal attack and fully rehearsing medical procedures before operations begin.
“We have already put in place plans to implement these recommendations and changes will be made as soon as possible.
“The MoD will review the coroner’s findings when available and address any additional recommendations.”