Manoeuvre by paramedic accused of choking two women at first aid course 'could have been life-threatening'

By Gordon Deegan

The head of the country’s Civil Defence College has told a court that the alleged manoeuvre carried out by HSE paramedic Andrew Long on two women at a first aid course "could have been life-threatening".

At Ennis Circuit Court today, Principal at the Civil Defence College in Roscrea, Roisín Maguire said that the manoeuvre described in court “could be life threatening because basically, you would be restricting blood flow to the brain”.

The witness for the prosecution said that this “would result in a restriction of oxygen to the brain and it would be a dangerous manoeuvre in my opinion”.

Ms Maguire said: “The manoeuvre is not included in any of the manuals or any of the first aid literature in all of my training. There is nothing that would demonstrate that kind of manoeuvre that I would see in training."

Andrew Long at Ennis Court

In the case, 4th year nurse student, Mary Nihill has recalled how Andrew Long knocked her out and rendered her unconscious when he placed his arm around her neck outside the classroom of a Civil Defence First Aid course at the Vocational Education Centre in Scarriff in March 2013.

Mother of three and seven months pregnant in March 2013, Elise McMahon has told the jury that her airwaves were cut off and that she could not speak when Mr Long performed the manoeuvre on her the same night.

In the case, Mr Long (35) of Carraig Dubh, Tobertaosceain, Ennis has pleaded ‘not guilty' to assault causing harm to Mary Nihill and Elise McMahon in March 2013.

In a Garda interview read out in court today the allegations concerning Ms Nihill and Ms McMahon were put to Mr Long and in reply, Mr Long said: “There is no substance to these allegations.”

When asked if the women were telling lies, Mr Long stated: “I deny these allegations.”

When asked if he put a choke hold on Ms Nihill and Ms McMahon by Det Garda Bernard Casey, Mr Long replied: “I deny such allegations.”

Det Casey told the court that Mr Long has no previous convictions.

In evidence today, Course Director in Paramedic Studies at the University of Limerick (UL), prosecution witness, Mark Dixon was asked by counsel for the State, Philip Rahn BL to comment on the manoeuvre described by Ms Nihill and Ms McMahon which resulted in the cutting off of supply of oxygen and blood in the neck

In reply, Mr Dixon: “I think it is most important to state that the first rule of any medical eduction is to do no harm, whether it is the Hippocratic oath or a professional code of conduct.”

He said: “The absolute golden rule is that you never do harm and certainly what I have heard described, the occlusion of an airway with the potential starvation of oxygen would never be condoned in any form of educational process.”

Asked by Mr Rahn why is that, Mr Dixon replied: “The brain is a very sensitive organ. The brain needs oxygen and sugar to live. If you take one of those elements away, it becomes potentially life threatening.”

“Anyone who has done a first aid programme or life saving or rescue course everything starts around the airway and this is the tube that runs from the mouth and the nose to the lungs. Any manoeuvre that closes that airway prevents oxygen getting to the brain and that is life-threatening."

The prosecution case completed today and the case continues tomorrow.

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