An elderly war hero died after waiting 13 hours for an ambulance to arrive at his home.
Navy veteran Eric Wells, 92, tragically died in his sleep before medics could treat him after he complained of stomach pains.
His family have now demanded answers from the East Midlands Ambulance Service following his horrific ordeal.
His wife Linda, who called 999, says she is now “lost” without her husband of 50 years, Lincolnshire Live reports.
Eric was described as a pillar of the community and regularly gave talks to schools about his war days and also raised money for ambulance services.
But his life ended in quiet tragedy as he waited patiently for an ambulance that came too late.
He tried to wait up for it to arrive, even telling wife Linda to go to bed – but when he eventually fell asleep, he never woke again.
And it meant he never got to fulfil his dream of going down the aisle with his daughter – who, like the rest of the family, has been left heartbroken by his death.
EMAS has apologised for what happened – and say millions of pounds of extra funding has since been allocated to try to ensure that patients get a better service.
The incident began when Linda called 999 after Eric, who had a catheter, failed to pass urine and began complaining of stomach pains.
Mrs Wells initially said she called 111 but the lines were so busy that she called 999 at 4.05pm on February 17.
No ambulance had arrived by 8pm so Mrs Wells called again.
She said the ambulance eventually arrived at 5am on February 18, by which time Mr Wells had died.
Mrs Wells, who celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary with the ex-navy war hero last year, said things may have been different if the ambulance arrived sooner.
She said: “We daren’t go to bed in case the ambulance arrived so we sat in the living room.
"I’ll never forget Eric’s last words to me.
He said: ‘you want to get your head down, you look tired, have a sleep. I’m going to sleep.’
"I thought he was just sleeping but when the ambulance men arrived they said he had passed away.
"It wasn’t his time.
"We will never know if the paramedics coming would have made a difference to the outcome.
"Whatever the outcome would have been it’s not on leaving someone waiting for 13 hours.
“I had no idea those few hours before would be the last I spent with him.
"I pleaded with the call takers to send someone as Eric’s condition became worse and they said they were very busy and would send someone as soon as possible.
"Eric was my life and soul mate. We did everything together. I am completely lost without him."
Mr Wells’ death has rocked the family.
Daughter Sarah has been left distraught about the fact that her dad was unable to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day, on March 24.
In a poignant step, she and husband Jon took the difficult decision to go ahead with the wedding with Mrs Wells walking her daughter down the aisle.
Sarah said: “Dad was unable to walk so was going to give me away in a wheelchair. His one wish was to see us get married.
“We will never know what would have happened if an ambulance came sooner but as mum said, we will never know. We feel let down by the system and we have logged a complaint but we cannot get any answers.
"We all miss him dearly – and his dog Cassie has not been the same since."
Mr and Mrs Wells retired to Ingoldmells from Peterborough where they ran a successful taxi firm. Mr Wells was also the treasurer and president of the Combined Ex-Service Association.
He met many famous faces throughout his life, including Vera Lynn, Princess Anne and Bruce Forsyth.
Mr Wells is survived by his wife Linda, daughter Sarah, son Ashley and grandchildren Christopher and Gemma and other family members.
An inquest into Mr Wells death revealed he died as a result of pneumonia.
EMAS has apologised but say that initial findings showed that the 999-call received for Mr Wells was deemed to be a category 4 (less urgent).
It is understood they received 3,200 calls on the day of the incident – far more than the 2,000 EMAS normally receives – and officials said life-threatening and serious calls had to take priority.
Mr Wells was referred to another health service to provide further assessment and care.
EMAS say they received a call back from the alternative health provider and while the condition was not reported to be life-threatening or serious, they confirmed an ambulance would be sent to take the patient to hospital for assessment.
David Williams, assistant director of operations, said: “EMAS’ sincere condolences have been offered to the family for their sad loss, and I extend my apology to them for the level of service they received.
"It clearly fell short of the high standard of care that we aim to deliver to our patients.
“The investigation into what happened is ending and we have been in contact with the family to confirm when we will be able to share our findings with them."
EMAS has been campaigning for more funding to provide more staff and offer a better service.
As a result, an extra £9 million is being invested in EMAS this year.
This means extra clinical staff, ambulances and resources will be provided this year, to enable EMAS to respond more quickly and more consistently to 999 calls and urgent GP requests for ambulances.
There is also the potential for additional funding to rise to approximately £19 million next year, dependent on performance targets being met and other contract terms.
A new Urgent Care Transport Service has since been set up to help patients categorised as being less urgent be seen to more quickly.
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