Inquest into Linton soldier's fatal attempted tackle in friendly game begins

By Alecia Rousseau -
Sam Scott died on August 6, 2014, after his life support was withdrawn. Photo / Supplied
Sam Scott died on August 6, 2014, after his life support was withdrawn. Photo / Supplied

Witnesses at an inquest into the death of a Linton-based soldier have been cautioned not to let their fear of being criticised cloud their evidence.

Coroner Carla na Nagara spoke to those attending the inquest being held in Palmerston North for Lieutenant Sam Andrew Scott, 21, who died after receiving a head injury in 2014.

Scott was playing in an intra-unit rugby league nines game on the morning of August 1, 2014, at Linton Military Camp.

Senior constable Peter John Benton told the inquest Scott had been taken to Palmerston North Hospital where it was found he had sustained a subdural haemorrhage.

He was transferred to Wellington Hospital for surgery that day, and was placed in the intensive care unit on life support.

He died on August 6 after his life support was withdrawn.

New Zealand Defence Force soldier Christopher Warr said Scott had attempted to tackle him near the end of the game.

He saw Scott coming and decided to front him "straight on", hitting him "cleanly in the neck and shoulder area".

Fellow player Steven Bowring, who was on Scott's team, said the game had gone well until Scott attempted the tackle.

Sam Scott funeral image posted to Twitter.
Sam Scott funeral image posted to Twitter.

He said Scott was unable to stop Warr so made the tackle himself.

"I then saw Sam on the ground ... and called the ref to stop the game."

Warr also testified that Scott had played well during the match, but immediately after the tackle he looked back to see his colleague drop to the ground.

"I knew something was wrong ... a couple of people got him off the field."

One of those people was fellow soldier Briya Brown. She is a trained combat life saver, and recalled watching the tackle from the side line.

She saw Scott get up after the tackle, but said he "was sitting funny".

"I went over to him and asked if he was ok ... he replied saying he had a sore knee but he was holding his elbow. A few people helped me carry him off ... he tried to walk but he had floppy legs."

She called for further assistance after Scott began to seizure on the side line.

"I tried to remove his mouth guard but was unable to as his jaw had locked shut ... Sam had two to three seizures so rather than move him again I asked a driver to get help from the medical treatment centre."

Five minutes later a doctor and medic arrived, and during this time Brown said she continued taking observations. This included checking his pupils but she said there was no response to light and "this confirmed a head injury."

She then passed on her observations to the attending doctor, who monitored Scott until the ambulance arrived.

Scott's father, Andrew, questioned Brown on whether the Defence Force had trained her not to move someone with a suspected head or neck injury.

Brown said she couldn't recall receiving this training or any information regarding how adrenaline may mask certain symptoms.

Bowring said Scott had a "unique" tackling style that saw him go for the legs, "often with his head in the way".

But Coroner Nagara said this could prove to be a point of contention because she had received evidence, including a letter from a previous coach, stating Scott had a good tackling technique.

At the close of today's inquest, Coroner Nagara said she would attempt to have her findings ready as soon as possible.

An interim suppression order was also made on the rank and unit of Defence Force members who were witnesses at today's hearing.

- Manawatu Guardian

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