A 14-year-old boy died after being hit in the head with a hockey stick in a tragic accident minutes before a friendly match, an inquest heard.
Luke Hobson, from Hitchen, collapsed during a training session at Blueharts Hockey Club on March 28 last year.
His parents, Peter Hobson and Helen Moss, initially believed he had been hit by a stray ball, but it was not until the inquest into his death opened that it emerged he had been struck by a teammate.
Hatfield Coroners’ Court heard Luke was dribbling with his head down when he was accidentally caught by another player’s backswing.
Ms Moss told the court she had received a school report just prior to the accident which showed he was ‘excelling in almost every subject’ and that he had quickly made friends in his new school.
Luke had already decided to study Computer Science at Cambridge University, with his mum adding: ‘This loss of potential is one of the hardest things we have to deal with.’
Mr Hobson also said: ‘I was incredibly proud of him, he was my special boy.’
He went on to explain that he was looking forward to being a bigger part of his son’s life as he grew into his teenage years, after working hard to set up as bright of a future as possible – an opportunity that has now been lost.
The heartbroken father said he was ‘completely exhausted’ by grief and that ‘without Luke it’s hard to find meaning in anything’.
During the hearing Luke’s parents explained that, while closure is impossible, they needed to be able to account for the last minutes of the teenager’s life.
Mr Hobson said: ‘We simply wanted to know what happened to Luke, and how I can drop him off at training and three hours later he was dead.’
The incident happened prior to what was supposed to be a light-hearted end-of-season parents and players match when the coaches briefly left the teenagers unsupervised to switch the floodlights on.
It was only after further evidence was gathered this year that a complete picture was assembled of what happened that evening, the Hertfordshire Mercury reports.
That included a statement from the boy who struck Luke, which was read to the court by senior coroner Geoffrey Sullivan.
It said: ‘We were trying to flick the ball up in the air, and I went for a volley. I remember I had already taken two shots and was getting ready to take a third.
‘I didn’t follow through because the accident happened. I didn’t know Luke was behind me and he fell to the floor.’
The teenager, who cannot be named, said he then sprinted for a first aid kit and to find help.
He went on to explain that he had no recollection of the incident, even as police interviewed him shortly after, adding: ‘Almost straight after the accident I had no memory, it was like my memory had blocked it out.
The teenager added: ‘It was around Christmas I started to get some memory back but I didn’t tell anyone about it, not even my councillor.’
Hertfordshire Constabulary carried out an investigation into Luke’s sudden death. They said in a statement that ‘following the inquiry, it was determined that no criminal offence had taken place and the case was treated as accidental’.
Dr Curtis Offiah, who conducted the post-mortem, said he believed the cause of death to be Impact Brain Apnoea, caused by blunt force trauma – a phenomenon that stuns the brain stem, which then stops other necessary functions.
While some circulatory function was restored by medics, Mr Sullivan said he believed little could have been done to save Luke.
The coroner recorded the death as having been accidental.
Mr Sullivan told Luke’s parents: ‘What happened to you is what every parent dreads and there’s nothing I can say to make it any better, or anyone can say or do.
‘I’m glad in a small way we have been able to help in finding out what happened and I offer you my deepest sympathies.’
Kate Sherwood, Acting Chairman of Blueharts Hockey Club, confirmed significant measures had been implemented following the incident.
Players will now not be able to use sticks or balls without being accompanied by an adult, while the pitches are now locked to prevent access to the pitch before a coach is present.
Blueharts have since named their pitch the Luke Hobson Memorial Pitch in his honour.
The club has also introduced a new defibrillator outside, which can be accessed without needing to enter the clubhouse.
It said in a statement: ‘All of us at Blueharts were devastated by Luke’s death. Luke was a well-liked and hardworking member of the Blueharts Under 14s 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.’
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