Fire Brigade pledges to review policies following Wembley trainee's death
- Credit: PA
Action should be taken to prevent future deaths following the suicide of a Wembley-based trainee firefighter, a coroner has said.
Jaden Francois-Esprit was found in his home in Wapping on August 26, 2020, three weeks after his 21st birthday.
He was training to be a firefighter at Wembley Fire Station at the time of his death.
Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Mary Hassell said the London Fire Brigade should re-watch the inquest and investigate what was said, adding: "Action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe that you have the power to take such action."
Jaden's family feared he was being bullied due to his race and teased for eating Caribbean food, St Pancras Coroner's Court heard.
However, the court heard Jaden was not the only non-white person on Wembley Green Watch and firefighters brought in a "huge variety of food", Ms Hassell said.
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In the Prevention of Future Deaths report, Ms Hassell said: "Unbeknown to those with whom he worked at Wembley Fire Station, Jaden’s mental wellbeing was deteriorating significantly in the last weeks of his life, and it deteriorated to the point where he killed himself."
She added: "Jaden’s interior life did not always accord with what was going on around him. Most of all, he felt isolated, and yet it was clear to me that he there [sic] was a lot of affection for him at the fire station."
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Ms Hassell noted that Jaden was given a mentor at the station, but the mentorship ended when he didn't make use of it, which could have been followed up.
Linda Francois, Jaden’s mother, said: “Jaden’s death has devastated our family. The emotional wounds are still raw and things will never be the same without him.
“This isn’t an issue that the London Fire Brigade can kick into the long grass.”
Commissioner of London Fire Brigade, Andy Roe, said: “The thoughts of all at the Brigade remain with the family of firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit throughout this difficult time.
“This is a tragic incident and it saddens me to hear that instead of enjoying a new career as a firefighter, Jaden faced challenges and felt unhappy.
“Soon after Jaden’s death I met with his family, to not only offer my condolences, but to assure them that the Brigade would investigate what happened.
"An internal investigation was carried out and shared with the coroner. We will now look at the comments made by the coroner, as well as our investigation, and consider any learning opportunities for the Brigade."
He added: “I would like to personally reassure the public that the Brigade does not tolerate any form of bullying.
"We take any incidences of alleged bullying seriously and have strict policies in place, which all staff are expected to adhere to.
"Looking after the mental health and wellbeing of our staff is a priority for the Brigade, we have a Counselling and Trauma Service available to all of our staff.
"We have taken additional steps to make sure that any member of staff who has been affected by Jaden’s death has access to this service.
“We hope the conclusion of the inquest has provided firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit’s family and friends with some closure.”
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: "Jaden's death was a tragedy that is mourned by his friends and colleagues in the London Fire Brigade and by firefighters across the country. We hope that this ruling will bring some peace of mind to his family.
“All the issues identified by the coroner need to be fully addressed and we will work to ensure that happens.”
Vincent Reynolds, from Thomson Solicitors who represented the family, said: “It is now up to the Brigade to act swiftly to make sure such a tragic incident doesn’t happen again.”
Anyone struggling with issues raised in this report can call the Samaritans' 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more at www.samaritans.org