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Failures led to jousting death

A man died during a jousting re-enactment because of failures to ensure a correct helmet was worn and failures to ensure his shield was appropriately assembled, a coroner has ruled.

Paul Anthony Allen died after a splinter went through the eye hole of his helmet, penetrating his eye and then brain, as the event at Rockingham Castle in Corby, Northamptonshire, was being filmed for Channel 4's Time Team programme.

The 54-year-old, of Chishill Road, Heyden, Cambridgeshire, died on September 20 2007 at University Hospital Coventry and Warwick following the incident seven days earlier.

After an inquest at Kettering Magistrates' Court, Northamptonshire Coroner Anne Pember gave a narrative verdict, saying there had been several failures resulting in the accident.

Mr Allen, who had never jousted before despite practising with a lance and shield, was hit by a splinter from a balsa wood tip designed to break on impact with the opponent's shield for safety, the inquest heard.

It broke off, as it was supposed to, but a piece of wood flew up through the eye-slit of his helmet, hitting his eye socket. Mr Allen was airlifted to hospital with the splinter of balsa wood still in his eye and his eye hanging from its socket, the inquest heard.

He had an operation to remove the splinter, which penetrated 5in (13cm) into his head, but his condition did not improve and he died of cardio-respiratory failure and a severe penetrating brain injury.

Ms Pember said: "There were failures - a) to engage a rider with a proven track record of lance-breaking jousting, b) to ensure the correct helmet or helm for jousting was used and c) to ensure that the shield had been appropriately assembled for jousting purposes."

Mr Allen's wife, Sharon McCann, said after the inquest that her husband had died doing something he loved, adding: "If he could have written his script this would have been his chosen end."

"I believe that those involved were acting in good faith. With hindsight there may be lessons to be learned which, I hope, will prevent anything similar happening again."

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