Death of ‘loving and caring’ Hitchin Blueharts player Luke Hobson ruled accidental by coroner
- Credit: Archant
The death of a 14-year-old boy from St Ippolyts – described as a “caring and loving child” – has been ruled as accidental following a two-day inquest at Hertfordshire Coroners’ Court.
Luke Hobson sadly died as a result of a hockey accident on March 28, 2019, at Blueharts Hockey Club in Hitchin.
The medical cause of death was confirmed as impact brain apnoea as a result of blunt trauma to the head by Dr Curtis Offiah, who carried out CT scans after Luke’s death at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
Having played hockey on and off since the age of six, Luke became a consistent member of Blueharts Hockey Club in 2015.
His death happened on the night of a post-season friendly match between parents and the U14 boys.
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After initial inconsistencies in witness accounts, it was determined that Luke’s injuries were a result of being hit in the back of the head with a hockey stick as a boy went to take a shot at the goal.
Luke’s parents, Helen Moss and Peter Hobson, said they had been “disappointed” with the investigations carried out by Hertfordshire Constabulary and North Herts District Council – with the former having failed to obtain CCTV which showed the last moments of Luke’s life.
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Factors leading up to the accident were discussed at length at the inquest, with two factors predominantly considered by senior coroner Geoffrey Sullivan in his verdict.
It was heard by a number of witnesses that boys were playing on the pitch prior to the official warm up lead by the coach – and due to the fact that the official season has ended, floodlights – which were usually on a timer – were not yet switched on.
This led coaches to locate the floodlights’ switches and turn them on. It was during this time the accident happened.
The court heard of how on a usual training session within the season, floodlights would be on 15 minutes before training begins – and the gates to the pitch would usually be opened by the coaches, who would walk on to the pitch together with the boys and immediately begin the warm up.
The floodlights being off, and the absence of the coaches, were not deemed by Mr Sullivan to have contributed to Luke’s death, on the balance of probability.
Kate Sherwood, chair of Blueharts, appeared at the inquest to give evidence and spoke of the changes that have been made at the club.
She confirmed that at the time of Luke’s death, the club’s defibrillator was locked inside the clubhouse, and since then it has become mandatory for the clubhouse to be opened any time the pitch is open. She also said there’s a defibrillator now outside and fully accessible.
She added in a statement following the inquest: “All of us at Blueharts were devastated by Luke’s death. Luke was a well-liked and hardworking member of the Blueharts U14s team. We would like to express again our most sincere condolences to Luke’s family and friends for their loss.
“Blueharts has provided its fullest assistance to the coroner in his investigation into Luke’s death and it has worked hard in the aftermath of this incident, in conjunction with England Hockey, to learn from the events of that tragic evening.”
The solicitor for of the family was pushing for reforms which would see new safety guidelines implemented across the UK – although the coroner was satisfied that changes made specifically at Blueharts Hockey Club following Luke’s death are satisfactory.
CEO of Hockey England Nick Pink also gave evidence, which included a new health and safety guidance to be given to all attributed hockey clubs – which is still in a draft form.
The coroner expressed his intention to complete a Prevention of Future Deaths report to governing body, Hockey England, to ensure incidents are reported so further research into the effectiveness and safety of wearing a helmet in hockey can be carried out.
In his summing up, senior coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said: “All the way through the investigation there was no suggestion of any malice on the part of the person who accidentally struck Luke.”
Mr Sullivan delivered the verdict of accidental death and concluded the session by addressing Luke’s parents: “What you have been through is what every parent dreads and there’s nothing that I can say to make that any better or indeed anyone can say or do.
“I am glad that in a small way I’ve been able to help in finding out what happened. Allow me to offer my deepest sympathies.”
Helen Moss and Peter Hobson said in a statement following the verdict: “Luke was a kind and loving boy, who at 14 had limitless possibilities ahead of him. The pain of losing him is unbearable.
“Since Luke’s death we have done all we can to make sure that lessons are learnt so that no other family has to go through what we have.
“Luke was hit by a stick at a time when floodlights were not on and play was not being supervised, both of which may have contributed to his death.
“This should never have happened. It is now clear that stick and ball activity should be supervised at all times.
“We welcome England Hockey’s new safe hockey guidance which aims to address these concerns as well as highlighting to clubs how dangerous unsupervised play can be.
“We urge all organisations playing hockey to take this guidance seriously and take all possible measures to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”
A Herts police spokeswoman said following the inquest: “All those who witnessed the accident were interviewed by officers who worked to gather all the information they could about the circumstances surrounding Luke’s death.
“Following the inquiry, it was determined that no criminal offences had taken place and the case was treated as accidental.
“Police involvement concluded after all the investigative material was transferred to the county coroner prior to the opening of Luke’s inquest.”
Detective Superintendent Mike Trotman, head of safeguarding, added: “This was a tragic accident and we cannot imagine the distress that Luke’s family and friends have endured since that day.
“The loss of a child is devastating and our thoughts are very much with Luke’s loved ones.”
“Anyone who is dissatisfied with the service they have received from Hertfordshire Constabulary can submit a complaint directly to the force, or via the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
“All complaints received are reviewed and assessed in line with force protocols.”