Belfast Telegraph

Inquest into shop death student

A student found dead in a Belfast clothes shop may have suffered a heart irregularity after working out in a city centre gym, an inquest has been told.

James Steen, 20, who studied engineering at Queen's University, was discovered by an assistant lying on a changing room floor at River Island.

A short time earlier he had been training at LA Fitness in the city centre, a coroner's court heard.

While he appeared healthy and the cause of death was recorded as undetermined, a pathologist said he may have had an unknown heart rhythm abnormality.

His relatives have since undergone tests for genetic problems.

Dr Peter Ingram said: "The cause of death remains obscure, most likely due to some sort of irregular heart beat, that seems the most likely explanation for death."

He added: "After death, it is no longer possible to test the electrical circuitry of the heart, that ceases to be able to be tested once death has occurred, but there is a possibility that there was an abnormality in the rhythm or electrical wiring of the heart."

Mr Steen's heart and brain underwent further analysis following his death in February but no health problem was found.

His blood was analysed but no trace of legal or illegal drugs or alcohol was discovered, the Belfast inquest heard.

The assistant state pathologist said: "It remains most likely to be due to natural causes, possibly an abnormality in the heart, but undetectable by current practices."

He said it was best that the cause of death be noted as undetermined but recommended relatives of the dead man be screened for genetic problems.

Several young sportsmen have collapsed and died in Northern Ireland from suspected undiagnosed heart problems.

Mr Steen, from The Meadows in Kilmore in Co Down, suffered from asthma quite a while ago and underwent treatment for a skin condition, his GP Dr Patrick Sharkey said.

PSNI Constable Alan Preston said he was observed on CCTV training at LA Fitness around two hours before his death, spending around half an hour doing cardio work on a treadmill and bike before core exercises and light weights.

He left the gym and entered River Island 20 minutes later, possibly visiting another shop in between.

Mr Steen was found slumped on the changing room floor by shop assistant Rebecca Watters less than an hour later.

Nobody else was in the fitting rooms.

Paramedics said it was too late to begin emergency CPR as he was already dead when they arrived.

His mother Deidre Steen had been due to meet him at a restaurant in Stranmillis.

Instead, police met her to break the news of his death.

She said he was planning to meet a partner from London that weekend.

"He was full of excitement... he was really upbeat about that," she told the court.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson said no clear cause of death could be determined.

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