Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Coroner warning after air gun death of Swansea boy, 10

Rhys Johnson
Rhys Johnson was playing near his house in Llansamlet

A coroner has urged parents to supervise children using air guns after a 10-year-old boy died after being shot at close range in the heart.

Rhys Johnson of Llansamlet in Swansea died in hospital on 27 September.

An inquest heard he and a friend were using his father's airgun without his knowledge in a lane behind his home.

Recording a verdict of accidental death coroner Philip Rogers was told Rhys's friend did not mean to shoot him as they were taking 'pot shots' at cans.

Mr Rogers heard Rhys and his 12-year-old friend were playing in the lane behind his house.

Det Sgt Nigel Morgan said the friend was holding the .22 calibre air rifle when he thought he heard Rhys call to him.

"Rhys was standing to his left calling him and laughing," he said.

"The boy held the rifle at the butt in his right arm with his finger on the trigger.

I'm sure Mr and Mrs Johnson were not aware the children were using the weapon unsupervised
Philip Rogers, coroner

"As he turned he felt the gun to be heavy. As it fell away he pulled it towards him and accidentally fired the trigger.

"Rhys was holding himself to the chest - he thought he was joking then he thought he's shot Rhys in the hand.

"He saw no blood and Rhys ran to the house."

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, dropped the Webley Vulcan .22 break-barelled air rifle and followed Rhys into his house.

Det Sgt Morgan said: "He was crying and apologising for what happened."

Rhys was hit by a pellet at close range.

Paul Wheel has set up a Thai boxing memorial cup to remember Rhys Johnson

Surgeons in Swansea battled for several hours to save the schoolboy but he died in the early hours of the morning of the following day.

The medical cause of death was an airgun wound to the heart.

The Swansea inquest heard no legal action was taken against the boy.

Playing indoors

The inquest was told Rhys had played with his father's gun since the age of eight but only while supervised.

His father, workshop engineer David Johnson, told the inquest: "I would allow him to use it if he was with me when I was up the garden or we were spending time together.

"Rhys would have shown interest in it from when he was about eight-year-old - maybe younger."

Mr Johnson, 36, said he thought Rhys was indoors on his Playstation when the tragedy happened.

Swansea coroner Philip Rogers said: "This sad case proved the danger of air weapons. Such weapons although not requiring to be licensed can prove fatal.

"I would urge anyone with children to try and ensure that such weapons are not used without parental supervision.

"I'm sure Mr and Mrs Johnson were not aware the children were using the weapon unsupervised."

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