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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
Gym session led to teenage death
coroner graphic
A teenager died from a brain infection almost three weeks after hitting his head during a gym session, an inquest heard.

A-level student Owen Smith struck his head while doing chin-ups on a horizontal bar, 7ft above the ground, at the Eastern Leisure Centre in Llanrumney, Cardiff, south Wales.

The late Owen Smith
Owen Smith struck his head on a bar

The inquest at Cardiff Coroners' Court heard that the 17-year-old, from the Trowbridge Green area of the city, was not knocked out and did not report the incident to any member of staff at the council-run centre.

But two days later Owen's left eye puffed up and he started complaining of having headaches.

He visited his local GP who diagnosed him as having an eye infection and was given painkillers.

The swelling did not go down and he was rushed to hospital after collapsing in a local chemist shop.

In statement to the court Owen's mother, Linda Smith, said he was taken to the University Hospital of Wales where he was kept in for three days before being released.


It is difficult to be100% sure he did not have a fracture but thought he probably didn't

Neurosurgeon Richard Hatfield

Consultant neurosurgeon Richard Hatfield told the inquest an X-ray and a brain scan failed to show a fracture above Owen's left eye.

He added that Owen did not show any other signs of infection because his temperature was normal and he had only had one seizure.

"We thought he did not have a fracture. It is difficult to be100% sure he did not have a fracture but thought he probably didn't," Mr Hatfield said.

"People with inter-cranial infections are usually very ill. It is extremely rare in someone who seems so well."

Fracture

Owen was released from hospital but his condition deteriorated when he went home and his mother found him dead in bed after he failed to get up on November 30, 2001 - a total of 19 days after his injury.

Pathologist Dr Ryk James said the cause of death was a meningitis brain infection from a fracture to the brain which was caused when Owen hit his head at the gym.

He added that it was "very unusual" that anyone had received a fracture on the equipment.

Coroner Dr Lawrence Addicott recorded a verdict of accidental death.

"Bright future"

After the inquest Mrs Smith said: "Owen was a well-mannered, loving son with a bright future ahead of him studying A-levels, with a view to being an animator.

"He was always polite with everyone and well liked. Other from the tragic circumstances he would be here today looking forward to his18th birthday next week and his A-level results."

A spokesman for the Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust extended his deepest sympathy to Owen's family and friends. He added: "The coroner's inquest reached a verdict of accidental death and we are satisfied there is no criticism of the hospital or its staff."

See also:

02 Nov 00 | Wales
12 Apr 02 | England
Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.


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