Hughes death ruled an accident


The coroner’s inquest into the death of Phillip Hughes after being struck on the neck by a bouncer has found no legal fault can be put on either the players or the officials.

The inquest heard that Hughes was singled out for short pitched bowling, facing 20 of the 23 bouncers bowled on that fateful day but ruled that his skill was such that he didn’t appear to be in any trouble until he was struck.

New South Wales coroner Michael Barnes said on Friday: “Phillip was targeted by short-pitched balls bowled at or over leg stump or middle stump that placed him in greater danger of being struck.

“Of the 23 bouncers bowled on that day, 20 were bowled to him.

“However, in view of the evidence of the other players, the presiding umpires, and Mr Taufel [former umpire Simon Taufel], that Phillip was, because of his high level of skill and confidence, comfortably dealing with the short-pitched balls, I conclude that no failure to enforce the laws of the game contributed to his death.

“Such was his skill and experience, he was well able to deal with such bowling, but even the best can’t perform perfectly all of the time. He could have avoided the ball by ducking under it, but such was his competitiveness, he sought to make runs from it.

“A minuscule misjudgement, or a slight error of execution, caused him to miss the ball which crashed into his neck with fatal consequences. There is absolutely no suggestion the ball was bowled with malicious intent. Neither the bowler, nor anyone else, was to blame for the tragic outcome.”

The coroner believes the assertion that no sledging took place on the day was false but conceded that the verbal had little effect on Hughes.

Barnes added: “Hopefully the focus on this unsavoury aspect of the incident may cause those who claim to love the game to reflect on whether the practice of sledging is worthy of its participants.

“An outsider is left to wonder why such a beautiful game would need such an ugly underside.”

The coroner concluded that the injuries Hughes suffered were unsurvivable but that there were also unacceptable delays in contacting the emergency services.

The coroner said: “None of those on the field at the time knew how to summon medical assistance onto the field.

“Although it was immediately obvious that Phillip was injured, it was not clear whose responsibility it was to call an ambulance. An ambulance was not called for over six minutes after he was hit.

“The person who called the ambulance did not have sufficient information to enable an accurate triage to be made by the ambulance dispatcher. As a result, the ambulance response was given a lower order of urgency than it would have been given had the relevant information about Phillip’s condition been conveyed.”

The coroner also detected issues with the information given to the Ambulance regarding access to the ground and available equipment.

Barnes continued: “Not that anyone involved was lackadaisical or cavalier, rather the systems in place to respond to such an incident were inadequate.

“Unless addressed, those failings could result in a preventable death occurring … All of those who responded to Phillip’s injury did so selflessly and to the best of their ability. They are to be commended.”

Barnes ruled that the death was simply a tragic accident: “The family’s grief at losing their much loved son and brother was exacerbated by their belief that unfair play had contributed to his death.

“In the course of this inquest they have heard from independent experts, high ranking cricket officials and some of the players who were on the field with Phillip when he played his last game of cricket.

“Clearly, they do not agree with all that they heard. However, it is hoped that they accept the compelling evidence that the rules were complied with; that Phillip was excelling at the crease as he so often did, and that his death was a tragic accident.

“Nothing can undo the source of their never ending sorrow but hopefully, in the future, the knowledge that Phillip was loved and admired by so many and that his death has led to changes that will make cricket safer will be of some comfort.”