Coroner finds 'minuscule misjudgement' led to Hughes' death
PERTH, Australia (AP) A coroner who held an inquest into the death of international batsman Phillip Hughes has recommended that Cricket Australia review its laws on dangerous and unfair bowling to remove ambiguity, and urged the sport's governing body to mandate the use of extra neck protection on batting helmets.
New South Wales state coroner Michael Barnes handed down his findings yesterday, three weeks after a five-day hearing into the circumstances of Hughes' death concluded in Sydney.
At the inquest, a lawyer for the Hughes family said the 25-year-old Test cricketer was subjected to verbal abuse and an extraordinary amount of short-pitch bowling, or bouncers, before he was fatally struck on the back of the head and neck by a steeply bouncing bowl by Sean Abbott during a domestic first-class match in November 2014.
But Barnes ruled that it was a "tragic accident," finding that Hughes was experienced in handling high-bouncing deliveries, that there was no malice intended and that there was no failure to enforce rules by the umpires that contributed to the death.
"A minuscule misjudgement or a slight error of execution caused him to miss the ball which crashed into his neck with fatal consequences," Barnes said in his findings. "There was no suggestion the ball was bowled with malicious intent. Neither the bowler nor anyone else was to blame for the tragic outcome."
The match between New South Wales and South Australia states ended abruptly when Hughes suddenly collapsed on the pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground after being struck by a bouncer, or short-pitched delivery. He was taken to a nearby hospital but died two days later from a brain haemorrhage caused by a torn vertebral artery.
The coronial inquest was called to investigate whether the nature of play contributed to the risk, and the response by stadium and cricket staff and officials.
As well as his recommendations to Cricket Australia, Barnes directed the New South Wales state cricket association and the stadium operators to review and improve medical and safety protocols for players, officials and staff to ensure a faster response to emergency situations.
Barnes said Cricket Australia needed to review its regulations on playing conditions because the laws regarding limits on short-pitch bowling and what constituted a dangerous or unfair delivery were too open to interpretation.