The death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes was probably inevitable after he was struck in the neck by a ball travelling at high speed, an inquest heard yesterday.
Hughes, who played 26 tests, died from bleeding on the brain in November 2014 after being hit on the base of the skull by a rising ball while batting in a domestic match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“Quite clearly the death was a terrible accident,” coroner Michael Barnes said at the opening of the inquest.
“But that does not mean that cricket cannot be made safer.”
The death of Hughes, 25, who had risen through the ranks to play for his country, stunned Australia and the world cricket community, sparking an outpouring of grief.
In her opening address, counsel assisting the coroner Kristina Stern said Hughes had been excited about playing that day, with his mother and sister watching from the stands, as he worked to regain a place on the national team.
He had opened the batting for South Australia in the domestic Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales.
He was still at the crease after lunch and playing well.
But he tried to hook a delivery from Sean Abbott which ultimately hit him in the neck, causing him to step to the side before collapsing to the ground face first, making no effort to break his fall.
Footage of the blow and Hughes’s collapse was played in the court, with some of his family leaving the room.
Fellow cricketers and medical staff raced to help Hughes, but Stern noted that the first person to call for an ambulance was unaware of the severity of the injury and that it took about an hour to get Hughes to a nearby hospital.
But she said none of that seemed to have had an effect on Hughes’s death which “appears to have been inevitable from the point of impact”.
Nor did there appear to be any defect in the helmet he was wearing, she said.
Hughes was taken to hospital where he underwent scans and surgery but died two days later on November 27 2014.
A spokesman for the Hughes family, his former manager James Henderson, said in a brief statement outside the inquest that it would be a “very, very, very difficult week”.
“They’re hoping that perhaps there will be [something] positive to come out of Phillip’s death as we go through these next five days.”
New South Wales state coroner Barnes is examining the manner and cause of Hughes’s death and has jurisdiction to make recommendations, particularly in the interest of public health and safety.
The findings could take weeks.