The AA has apologised after it refused to rescue a customer’s car – because he had DIED three hours earlier.
Gerald Sleith, 75, had been a member with the car recovery company since 1966 and his membership was paid until August this year.
He collapsed outside a waterside cafe in Bristol last Saturday and died at the Bristol Royal Infirmary the following day.
Within hours of his death his friends Dennis Poulston, 66, and wife Diane, 61, went to retrieve his Fiat 500 and discovered the battery was flat.
So they called the AA but were stunned to be told they could not help because the member was dead.
Bosses at the breakdown recovery firm have since apologised and said staff should have followed ‘compassionate procedures’.
Mrs Poulston said: “The operator was very sympathetic but very embarrassed because he had been told by his supervisor that despite the circumstances there was nothing the AA could do because the policy holder was dead.
“It seemed terrible to us in the circumstances. Gerald had not been dead three hours so you think they could show some compassion.
“It was very distressing as we were very upset at the time – a good friend had just died unexpectedly.”
Luckily they discovered that Mr Sleith’s niece Amanda, who lives in Herefordshire, had AA cover and she was able to arrange for the car to be started so the couple could move it.
A spokesman for the AA said: “We have compassionate procedures in place that should have been followed on this occasion and we apologise that this was not the case.
“Our call handler was able to advise that if a family member or next of kin with membership rang we could respond.
“That was able to be arranged shortly afterwards and we duly responded within 50 minutes and fixed the problem.”
Retired lorry driver Mr Sleith, of Hotwells, Bristol, is believed to have died from a respiratory illness.