The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Peter Leslie Carter dies from suspected heart attack on arrival to Nigeria Tuesday afternoon.
The following is a combination of verbatim reports from British and Nigerian newspaper sources on the web.
“The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Peter Leslie Carter slumped and died on Tuesday evening on his arrival at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
“Peter Carter, who was 57, had just arrived in Lagos’s Murtala Muhammed International Airport from Houston, Texas, when he collapsed.“He was shouting ‘Help! Help!’ and then slumped. People did not want to go near initially because of the Ebola scare that has been in town,” the official added.
“The late Deputy High Commissioner who arrived Lagos on United Airlines Flight UA143 at 3.50pm slumped in the avio-bridge while he was alighting from the aircraft.
“It was reported that after disembarking, the passenger was observed to be clutching his chest and asking for help.
“In the course of examination, he was asked if he was Asthmatic, and he said ‘MAY BE’.
“On examination, he was found to be pale, in respiratory distress (gasping for breath), his pulse was rapid and thready. Based on his response to the question if he was asthmatic, a Ventolin inhaler was administered, but was not effective, as the patient was restless and threw off the inhaler to the floor. He was placed on the left lateral position and at the same time, oxygen was called for.
“Efforts were made to administer oxygen, while a second doctor was called and suction applied via a suction machine to clear the airway.
“Subsequently, the patient suffered a cardio-pulmonary arrest; the radial and carotid pulses were no longer palpable and patient was observed to be cyanosed. Attempts at resuscitation proved abortive. Pupils were fixed and dilated and patient was certified dead at 4.26 pm”.
“Efforts to get the confirmation of the British High Commission in Lagos and Abuja, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, proved unsuccessful yesterday, as calls to the commission and the ministry were unanswered.
“When contacted last night, the British High Commission spokesman, Robert Fitzpatrick, in a text message said, he could not confirm the passage of the diplomat. He said, “I can’t confirm anything at the moment, but would ask that you exercise restraint in your publication until I am able to come back to you.”
Later Rob Fitzpatrick, Head of Press & Public Affairs Section, British High Commission, Abujaissued issued the following statement:
“The Commission is saddened by the sudden death of Mr. Carter who joined the HM Diplomatic Service in 1984 and was an experienced career diplomat. Mr. Carter had previously served as Consul General in Milan and then as the British Ambassador to Estonia before becoming Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos in 2013 where he made an exceptional contribution to the UK’s relationship with Nigeria. Peter will be sorely missed by his family, friends and colleagues.”
From Wikipedia we learn the following: “In 1984, he joined HM Diplomatic Service with postings at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and New Delhi, and in 1996 went to Brussels, where he became responsible for the EU’s Middle East policy. He returned to London in 1998, where he negotiated the deal between North Korea and the United Kingdom which established diplomatic relations between the two countries. In 2001, Carter became Consul General at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, and then in 2006 he served as Consul General in Milan.”
Does Mr Carter’s early death raise any issues? Not necessarily, no. Men of a certain age do suffer from undiagnosed heart and circulation conditions that can give rise to unsuspecting heart attacks and these can be fatal as we all know. Mr Carter may sadly, have fallen into this group, aggravated by the long haul flight and possibly basic medical intervention at the scene of his collapse.
However I can’t help noticing the following points, that may or may not have significance:
1. He was on a United Airlines flight from Houston – about six and a half thousand miles distant, taking about thirteen and a half hours. Of course two UA flights (93 and 175) are alleged to have been used in the events of 9/11 which the company blamed for its subsequent bankruptcy. It now claims to be the largest carrier in the world.
2. Why was the British Deputy High Commissioner in Texas? The most logical reason might be oil. There is no official word as to the purpose of the trip, how long he was there or who he met. We need not articulate the issues surrounding Nigerian or Texan oil interests and their close connections to military and political events of the last twenty years. Incidentally one oil company based in Nigeria, “Afren”, has recently lost about a third of its value, with suggestions of high level impropriety and technical problems, which cannot have pleased a lot of people.
3. The High Commission, from local paper reports appears to have been very cagey about the death at first and relatively slow in collecting the body. What we wonder was the reason? In addition it is noticeable in the press release, the spokesperson in summarising Mr Carter’s diplomatic career, pointedly omits to mention his time as Consul General in Tel Aviv in 2001 (which just happened to be in or about the time of the 9/11 disaster in New York) although he does refer to the same role in Milan a little later. Or indeed that he was responsible for the EU’s Middle East policy in Brussels in 1996.
4. His cries for help and the reply to asthma question appear rather strange from a well educated and informed person, particularly as he appears to consciously reject the Ventolin provided. One might expect him to be well aware as to the symptoms he was experiencing and what they might mean. Nor are the attempts to unblock his airways with a suction machine wholly explicable. It tends to suggest some form of fluid obstruction or excessive salivation. The resuscitation technique applied is not described but clearly by virtue of the time frame and death certification (3.50 to 4.26) the efforts could not have been protracted.
5. Nigeria is a country under considerable stress, militarily in the north with Boko Haram and the brutality of its own forces; socially with the risk of Ebola Fever and other endemic diseases; economically around principally oil, poverty and corruption.
6. Hopefully behind the scenes, the British Government will be thorough and transparent regarding the circumstances leading up to, and including, Mr Carter’s premature demise, to reassure everyone they were indeed wholly “natural”. There are certainly sufficient issues and connections here that might make it less so.