Belfast Telegraph

Heartbreak as family of teen who died hours after rugby match collapse see footage at inquest

By Victoria O'Hara

The family of a young rugby player who died hours after collapsing during a school match broke down as they watched footage of the game during an inquest into his death.

Benjamin Robinson from Castlerocklands Carrickfergus, was playing against Dalriada High School in the Medallion Shield when he collapsed in January 2011.

The Carrick Grammar pupil (14) became ill after making a tackle in the last minute of the game. He collapsed and never regained consciousness.

The Year 11 pupil was treated at the scene by Dr Paul Loan and rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Belfast. He was later pronounced dead.

During the first day of the inquest in Belfast, amateur footage of the game was played. His parents, Peter Robinson and Karen Walton, and their partners, were in court.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson offered Mrs Walton the opportunity to leave during specific moments of the footage. But despite breaking down at points — and supported by family— she said she wanted to remain in court.

A lawyer for the family, Gabriel Ingram, said a spectator could be heard at one point shouting: “Good tackle, Ben Robinson, well done son”.

Mr Ingram said it also showed a fellow player at one point “looking quizzically” at him during the game.

After the tackle that led to the teenager collapsing, a spectator was heard to say: “He was clean out there.”

Earlier, Mr Ingram said police officer Constable David Mannis, the family liaison officer, “had drawn a blank” in investigating the death.

Mr Mannis said he took a number of witness statements to the incident.

But his appeal to the principals of both schools for pupils at the match to come forward was unsuccessful.

“I just tried my best,” he said.

The officer was told by principal Tom Skelton that pupils at Dalriada in Ballymoney were too traumatised to give evidence.

But Mr Ingram told the policeman: “You have lost a huge potential chunk of witness evidence by not pursuing it.”

When lawyers for Ben's family became involved more evidence emerged. Mr Ingram said approximately 300 letters were sent to parents at Dalriada leading to around six new witness statements.

Mr Mannis admitted there were “difficulties” in his relationship with Ben's mother who he had trained with as a police officer.

He had driven her to work when they were training together.

But Mr Mannis, who was appointed the Family Liaison Officer after Ben’s death, said he was unaware she was his mother until the funeral.

Mr Ingram asked if he was out of his depth, which he denied.

“I was not going to walk away and throw the towel in,” he said.

“I just did my best, obviously the family don’t think I did. I thought I had done enough, yes.”

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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