Geoffrey died while ambulance was parked minutes away

GEOFFREY Yuke died slowly.

Help was at hand. As the 24-year-old stood suffering an attack from a life-long heart condition, an ambulance was parked minutes' drive from his home. But it didn't come any closer.

Mr Yuke's indigenous community at Box Ridge, near Coraki, was marked a no-go zone - in the official terminology, it was the subject of a "caution note". Ambulances were not to enter without police escort because of safety fears.

A chain of mistakes delayed that escort for 45 minutes. Mr Yuke died shortly before the ambulance reached his home.

Last week, nearly 10 years after their father's death, Mr Yuke's three children, all of whom were aged under three at the time, successfully sued the state of New South Wales.

The State Government agreed to pay the children $220,000 in damages and, the family lawyer said, about $4000 for a headstone the family had been unable to afford at the time of his death.

Mr Yuke's sister Margaret brought the case on their behalf.

"I thought he had just died because of a heart attack," she said. "It wasn't until the (coronial inquest a year later) that I found out about all that."

Margaret said she cried hearing about the circumstances of her brother's death over "five long days" in court and was moved to seek out local lawyer Tracey Randall to take civil action after the inquest.

The case was brought in 2013 against the police and ambulance service jointly. It alleged poor communication and errors by both organisations had contributed to delays in treating Mr Yuke, who suffered from a congenital heart condition.

A NSW Ambulance spokesman said the service had apologised to the Yuke family.

He said a "caution note" no longer applied to Mr Yuke's community at Box Ridge but noted that the coroner had found the warning was justified.

The notes are applied when a paramedic has been threatened or assaulted at an address, the spokesman said.

"This policy not only protects paramedics but also ensures they can effectively treat patients with police back-up," he said.

Margaret said she cried again when the matter was settled on Friday with the approval of a judge at Lismore Court House.

She was particularly close to her younger brother. The two had run away from home together after being fostered out to an abusive home.

When Margaret was about 16 they ended up living together in their own home in Evans Head, with her taking legal charge of her brother.

"I felt like giving up so many times but I kept going because I knew he would have done that for me," she said. "My heart will just let the pain go now."

Ms Randall said the money would be held in trust and the family was hoping to use the settlement for "educational opportunities Geoffrey and Margaret did not have".

A recent case on the Central Coast allegedly involved delays in treating a woman whose home was the subject of a "caution note", even though the resident who had been the subject of the note had since moved out.


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