A devoted father died "in agony" and "growling like an animal" after waiting more than an hour for an ambulance following a stroke.
Tony Lane, 54, collapsed suddenly in a car park during a day out with wife Michelle.
But East Midlands Ambulance Service said it was "experiencing very large numbers of emergencies at that time" and the dad was told he had to wait more than an hour for an paramedics.
Mr Lane died in hospital the next day. His stroke was due to bleeding to his brain, caused in turn by an aneurysm.
Speaking from her family home in Selston, Nottinghamshire, Mrs Lane, who has since suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, told the BBC: "All I wanted was an ambulance.
"They couldn’t have saved him but he wouldn’t have died in absolute agony – and I watched my husband die in absolute agony.
"My nephew drove the car and I held my husband in my arms as he was repeatedly screaming ‘pain, pain, head, pain’.
"He was growling like a wild animal. His eyes were rolled to the back of his head."
After three minutes Mrs Lane handed the phone over to a passerby because she was so distressed.
But the East Midlands Ambulance Service call handler, reading from a script, said: "We are experiencing a very large number of life-threatening emergencies at the moment.
"However we do aim to be with you within the next 60 minutes or as soon as an ambulance is available and will be dispatched."
Mrs Lane, though, chose to make her own way to the nearest hospital, some eight miles away, in September last year.
"It was horrendous," the grieving mum added.
The ambulance service is now carrying out a trial in which patients who have suffered strokes are treated as a higher priority but this is unrelated to Mr Lane’s death.
Ben Holdaway, director of operations at East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: "The call had been recorded as a potentially serious condition but we were experiencing very large numbers of emergencies at that time.
"The caller was informed we aimed to be with the family within 60 minutes, or as soon as the next ambulance was available to be dispatched to them.
"Representatives from EMAS have previously been in contact with Mrs Lane and have visited her at home to offer our sincere condolences and to talk about her concerns."
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