British Army recruit suddenly collapsed and died during fitness test – as devastated family share their heartbreak | The SunMarch 20, 2023
EMOTIONAL tributes are pouring in for a British Army recruit who suddenly collapsed and died during a fitness test.
Youngson Nkhoma, 30, was trying out for the Army in a timed two-kilometre run when he dropped to the ground 200m from the finish line.
The dad-of-one was rushed to hospital from the assessment centre in in Lichfield, Staffs, but tragically died that evening from catastrophic organ failure.
His family, who said their "whole world changed" after he died, are now suing the MoD and commercial recruitment partners Capita Business Services Ltd for over £200,000 compensation.
Youngson, from Malawi, had applied to join the British Army as part of a recruitment drive in November 2019.
At the time a spokesperson for his family said: "Youngson had been chatting about the Army for a long time and was excited about being invited to the selection process.
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“When he collapsed just short of the finish line, it was a huge shock, but not for one minute did we expect to get told he had passed away.
"At that moment, our whole world changed and the grief has been overwhelming.
“Losing Youngson at such a young age was nothing short of traumatic and something we’ll never get over, but we’re grateful that the inquest has at least provided us with some answers.
"We just hope that no-one else will have to go through what we have; we wouldn't wish this pain on anyone.”
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A coroner's inquest following the death of Youngson and another recruit found they both had sickle cell trait.
It is an inherited condition more common in people with certain genetic backgrounds, including those with African heritage.
The condition can lead the body to fatally break down when triggered by overexertion or strenuous exercise, especially in extreme temperatures.
Muscles start to disintegrate, releasing fibres into the bloodstream, which clog vital organs in a deadly process known as rhabdomyolysis.
In 2021, the Defence Safety Authority held an inquiry into the deaths and the collapse of several other Commonwealth Army hopefuls who survived.
It found that lapses had occurred in the selection process and in the provision of health and safety equipment on the days of the tests.
As a result of the coroner's findings, the MoD now routinely screens recruits for sickle cell trait with blood tests.
In papers now lodged with the High Court, Irwin Mitchell, lawyers for widow Latia Nkhoma, said: "The claim arises following an accident that took place on 27 November 2019 at the Army Assessment Centre in Lichfield.
"The deceased, a Malawian national who had applied to the British Army through the Commonwealth Recruitment Initiative, was undertaking the physical assessment stage of the recruitment process, which consisted of a 2km run.
"As the deceased approached the finish line he collapsed and was hospitalised, but passed away that evening.
"The cause of death was later determined to be multi-organ failure, exertional rhabdomyolysis, sickle cell trait and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
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"The claimant alleges that the first and second defendant were negligent or in breach of their duty of care by reason of the acts or omissions of its employees, servants or agents and is therefore liable to compensate the claimant for the injuries and losses sustained."
The High Court writ puts the value of the widow's claim at over £200,000.
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