Man in fatal Time Team joust 'wore unsuitable helmet'

Sharon McCann
Image caption Paul Allen's widow Sharon McCann said he died doing something he loved

A man who died after a jousting re-enactment for a TV show was wearing an unsuitable helmet, a coroner has ruled.

Paul Allen, 54, died after a splinter penetrated his eye socket and lodged in his brain as he was being filmed for Channel 4's Time Team programme.

Mr Allen, of Heyden in Cambridgeshire, died on 20 September 2007.

In a narrative verdict, coroner Anne Pember said a failing on the day was not having a rider with a proven track record in lance breaking jousting.

She said the balsa wood splinter from fellow rider Adam Plant's lance had gone through the slit and into Mr Allen's left socket and entered his brain in the accident at Rockingham Castle in Northamptonshire.

The coroner said there had also been a failure to ensure the shield had been appropriately assembled for jousting purposes.

Brain injury

Mr Allen had never jousted before despite practising with a lance and shield, the inquest at Kettering Magistrates' Court heard.

He was hit by the splinter from a balsa wood tip designed to break on impact with the opponent's shield for safety reasons.

The inquest heard it broke off as planned but a small piece of wood flew up through the eye-slit of his helmet.

Mr Allen was airlifted to hospital where he had an operation to remove the splinter but he died from cardio-respiratory failure and a severe penetrating brain injury, the inquest heard.

'Big eye holes'

Mr Allen's opponent in the joust, Mr Plant, told coroner Anne Pember it had been agreed he would strike the blow.

But a report by jousting expert Mike Loades, from San Francisco, read to the court, said Mr Allen was wearing a helmet that was suitable only for carnival jousting, as its eye holes were too big.

His report also found Mr Allen was holding his shield in the way it should have been held for infantry, rather than cavalry.

He said to describe the incident as "random or freak" would be wrong, adding: "This is not the case. The circumstances and equipment deficiencies of this occasion are clearly explicable and avoidable."

Outside the court after the hearing Mr Allen's widow Sharon McCann: "He died doing something he loved. If he would have written the script this would have been his chosen end."

She said those who had been involved in staging the joust that day had acted in good faith.

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