IT had been a perfectly uneventful spring day. Carl Johnson, a young father of two, had gone to work at the Royal Bolton Hospital as normal, and later enjoyed a meal with friends, laughing and joking, when tragedy struck.

In a matter of minutes the day gave way to an unimaginable nightmare as one family saw their loved one slip away in their arms as they waited for an ambulance to arrive.

The 35-year-old hospital maintenance electrician had begun having breathing difficulties as he drove home.

After calling an ambulance his partner Georgina Cullen was told that one would not be available for some time, and was instead asked if she could get Mr Johnson to hospital herself.

As she attempted to get him into the car, he collapsed and became unresponsive. When an ambulance did arrive and Mr Johnson was taken to A&E it was already too late.

Miss Cullen recalled: “All I kept thinking was “They can perform miracles these days”, and that’s the hope that I was clinging on to. But I just knew he was not there.”

Mr Johnson died suddenly after suffering a cardiac arrest due to an undiagnosed heart condition on April 18 last year.

An inquest at Rochdale Coroners’s Court heard how on the night of the 18, Mr Johnson was found kneeling on his bedroom floor with breathing difficulties by Miss Cullen.

Assistant coroner Julie Robertson found that the day had been “uneventful” with Mr Johnson attending work, then going for a meal with friends.

Miss Cullen told the court that at the meal Mr Johnson “was perfectly fine”.

However on his way home, Mr Johnson, who suffered from asthma, “started struggling to breathe”. When she discovered her partner in difficulties, Miss Cullen attempted to help regulate his breathing and he used his inhaler.

She then rang for an ambulance at 11.33pm but was asked if the couple could make their own way to the hospital. Unable to leave their two children, then aged 11 and 12, Miss Cullen rang her mother to look after them and began helping Mr Johnson to the car.

As he was getting into the car Mr Johnson collapsed on to the ground, he was not breathing and his jaw had locked shut. Ms Cullen then called 999 again.

The operator advised her to start CPR while an ambulance was dispatched, however, when she started the compressions he began to vomit.

Ms Cullen said Mr Johnson’s “eyes were open, and he was just staring, and he was completely unresponsive”.

She added that an ambulance arrived “quite quickly”, and crews continued CPR, before taking Mr Johnson to Fairfield Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A post mortem examination, carried out by pathologist Dr Karen Ramsden, revealed that Mr Johnson had “a larger heart than normal”, and that he had died due to a cardiac arrest brought on by undiagnosed hypertensive heart disease.

Following Mr Johnson’s death several safety concerns were raised about North West Ambulance Service’s (NWAS) response to Miss Cullen’s 999 calls.

Miss Cullen said she believed that the time it took an ambulance to respond and Mr Johnson having to move from the bedroom to get to the car had contributed to his death. She also raised issues with the grading given to her first 999 call. She said: “I feel Carl, myself and our two girls were enormously let down by the ambulance service. “He was a happy and healthy man and his death didn’t need to happen.”

The court heard that NWAS investigations found two more ambulance crews were on their meal break than should have been, when the first 999 call was made.

Their inquiries also found that the second operator had advised giving the wrong number of chest compressions according to procedure.

Nicky McCormack-Gray, a NWAS performance manager, told the court the issues raised have since been discussed at the “most senior level of the trust” and £20 million in additional funding had been agreed to help prevent similar problems.

“Lessons have absolutely been learned here,” he added.

However an independent report by an A&E consultant, Dr Peter Goode, read to the court, found that Mr Johnson “would still have had a fatal cardiac arrest even if ambulance crews arrived at 23.53.”

“Mr Johnson was unlikely to survive if a crew was on the scene at the time or was on the way to hospital,” he added.

Ms Robertson recorded a conclusion of death by natural causes, adding: “It is quite clear that Carl’s heart condition was unknown to him and that it was only discovered post mortem.

“I accept that this is the primary cause of death and that it would have made it difficult for Carl to breathe together with his asthma.”