'Incorrect helmet' caused jousting death


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

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

Mr Allen (54), of Chishill Road, Heyden, Cambridgeshire, died on September 20th, 2007 at University Hospital Coventry and Warwick. He had been involved in the re-enactment at Rockingham Castle in Corby, Northamptonshire, 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.

She 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.”

She passed her condolences to Mr Allen’s family but added: “I know Mr Allen was doing what he absolutely loved when he met his untimely death.”

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.

The accident happened during a warm-up run for a sequence to have been used in a special edition of the archaeological programme, hosted by former Blackadder star Tony Robinson.

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 five inches into his head, but his condition did not improve and he died on September 20th. The cause of death was given as cardio-respiratory failure and a severe penetrating brain injury, the inquest heard.