Inquest verdict on man who died 12 years after car crash

Bryan Swain, with horse Rickster, competing in a para dressage competition a month before he died
Bryan Swain, with horse Rickster, competing in a para dressage competition a month before he died

A decorated airman choked to death as a result of injuries sustained in a crash caused by a drink-driver, an inquest was told.

Bryan Swain suffered serious head injuries, multi-system trauma, oxygen deprivation and multiple fractures 
in the collision on the B6121 near Bourne in February, 2000.

He spent four weeks in the neurointensive care unit at Addenbrookes Hospital, in Cambridge, and was left severely disabled.

He was in hospital for over a year.

But the “determination and lack of bitterness” of Mr Swain, who doctors said was “lucky to have survived” saw him make a partial recovery and even continue with his love of dressage, winning a riding for the disabled championship.

But his injuries left him with swallowing problems and on October 8 last year, while out with a friend, he choked while eating a baguette for lunch.

His friend, Tomacz Niedbala, a head chef at Burghley House and Lincolnshire paramedic Wayne Catt did all they could to save him but sadly Mr Swain, of Hyde Gardens, Langtoft, died aged 65.

At an inquest in Stamford on Tuesday, South Lincolnshire coroner Prof Robert Forrest recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He concluded that because of the damage caused to Mr Swain’s larynx by the road crash and complications of the treatments he received afterwards, it was possible for fatal choking to occur at any time.

Adding a warning about the consequences of 
drinking and driving, Prof Forrest said: “When someone drives with alcohol one and a half times over the limit 
the chances of being involved in a collision are very high indeed.

“There are very good reasons why the law is as it
 is.”

At the time of the crash, Mr Swain was 53, and working as a part-time taxi driver and travel consultant.

He had retired after 22 years in administration in the RAF. During his time in the airforce, he had received two Commander-in-Chief commendations for his work in Northern Ireland,

The driver of the car which hit Mr Swain’s taxi, Anthony Mullen, from Hampshire, pleaded guilty to drink-driving and was banned from driving for a year.

A blood test had showed he had 122 milligrams of alcohol in his 100ml of blood. The limit is 80.

Recalling the day of the fatal choking incident, Mr Niedbala told the inquest
he had taken Mr Swain to Bourne.

They picked up his favourite baguette of tuna and double mayonnaise and went back to the car park.

“He started to choke, so he had a drink,” Mr Niedbala said.

“He was better, then started to choke again. He asked me to help him stand up. He was getting worse.

“I called an ambulance. The operated asked for the postcode so I ran to a nearby shop to ask. I ran back to Bryan and started CPR.

“I knew something was really wrong because his skin started to go purple.”

The ambulance arrived within minutes and paramedics took over, 
treating Mr Swain in the car park, then the ambulance headed for Peterborough City Hospital where a resuscitation team was waiting.

But Mr Swain was declared dead on arrival.

Mr Swain’s widow Jo told Mr Niedbala during the inquest: “I’m just glad you were with him. He could easily have been on his own.”