A coroner has urged the brother of a teenager killed in a freak golf driving range accident not to blame himself for the death.
Tragic Craig Woods (16) had spent the day with his brother Connor at Blackwood Golf Centre in Bangor.
They were on the driving range when Craig was struck on the left side of his head by a golf ball that had been hit by Connor.
Craig is thought to be the first person in the world to have died from such an injury, an inquest has heard. Speaking at the inquest for the 16-year-old — who died in July last year — a consultant neuro-pathologist described his death as “a completely exceptional case” which had no comparable example in medical literature across the world.
Yesterday coroner Suzanne Anderson sent a personal message to Connor, asking him not to feel any guilt over the accident.
“No-one could blame Connor, and he must not blame himself,” she said. Neither Connor nor his mother Michelle attended the inquest in Belfast, but his father Paul sat quietly in court listening to the proceedings.
The inquest heard how the teenager, from Regency Park in Newtowards, was seen holding his head and “staggering” towards his brother after being struck by the golf ball.
In a statement to police at the time, Connor said his brother assured him he was “fine”.
But he quickly deteriorated “and could not sit up straight on a bench”.
His body stiffened and started convulsing, with witnesses saying his jaw clenched, his eyes rolled back into his head and he was foaming at the mouth. Paramedics rushed him to the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, were he was quickly transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.
Consultant neuro-surgeon Stephen Cook, who operated on Craig, said the situation looked “very pessimistic” from the outset. The golf ball had hit Craig on his temporal region, an area of the skull Mr Cook described as “very thin compared with other parts of the skull”. It caused a blood vessel inside the lining of the skull to rupture, resulting in a massive haemorrhage.
Mr Cook said he had “never seen an injury like this before”.
This view was shared by consultant neuro-pathologist Dr Brian Herron, who carried out the post-mortem. He said: “The mechanism has never been described as far as I’m aware in any of the literature, so it must be a completely exceptional case.”
Coroner Anderson concluded Craig died from an “acute subdural haematoma” after being struck by a golf ball.