A five-year-old boy died after he fell from a climbing frame in his school playground and suffered a heart attack, an inquest heard today.
Tragic youngster Samuel Orola lost his footing while attempting a ‘roly poly’ in the adventure playground at Tolworth Infant School in Surbiton, Surrey, where he was a pupil.
Samuel’s best friend saw him falling as they played at lunchtime last September – and then ‘wobbling’ his way towards a bench to sit down, West London Coroner’s Court heard.
The friend later told his parents that he had tried to ‘wake him up’ as Samuel appeared to be sleeping.
He showed them how the boy had attempted a ‘roly poly’ but fell and hit his head.
Jaishree Parekh, one of two teaching assistants on duty in the adventure playground at the time, described the moment Samuel’s friend – who cannot be named for legal reasons – ran up to her to say Samuel was hurt.
She said: ‘A friend of Samuel’s came up to me saying ‘Sammy is lying down and bleeding in his lips, can you come and help.’
‘I walked over and saw Sammy lying on the ground in the recovery position.
‘I went over and said “Sammy, Sammy” and he didn’t respond.
‘I immediately knew there was something wrong so I shouted for help from the other teaching assistant Vanessa Stewart and she came straight away.
‘I could see blood coming from his lips. His eyes were closed and he was not moving.
‘He appeared to be unconscious. There was a large group of children gathered around.’
She said Samuel’s friend later told police that Sammy ‘was on the climbing frame and tried a ‘roly poly’ and hit his lips on the frame and hurt his neck.
‘He came off the frame and walked and sat down. I went over to him and he was sleeping.
‘His eyes were shut.’
Mrs Parekh said of Sammy: ‘He was such a lovely boy, so happy. He was always asking how you were.
‘He was a very kind and gentle boy.’
Vanessa Stewart said attempts to wake Samuel were unsuccessful and she noticed blood in the corner of his mouth and his breathing was ‘raspy’.
An ambulance was called but he stopped breathing just as paramedics arrived.
She said despite being by the climbing frame, she had not seen Samuel playing on it or walking around the sitting area to sit down afterwards.
Samuel’s friend was taken home by his grandmother who called the boy’s father in ‘flood of tears’ to say there had been an accident at school and Samuel was ‘seriously ill’.
The friend’s father, who cannot be named, told the inquest: ‘Under her breath so [his son] wouldn’t hear her, she said, “Sammy might be dead”.
Speaking to his son later, he said: ‘He said, ‘Sammy had an accident today.’
‘He said he was on a bench and his head went funny.
‘He then displayed, in actions, him falling from a bench.’
The boy’s father added: ‘He had a tear stain on his cheek. My wife asked him why he had been crying. He said he had cried in the class room because he missed Sammy and that he wanted him back.’
‘He said he had tried to get Sammy’s hand. He said he could not get his hand and could not wake him up.‘
Several days later when he was getting ready to go to football, he said: ‘He demonstrated what I would call a hand stand. His head was on the floor.
‘He said Sammy tried to do it. He nearly did it.
‘He said he tried to get up, but before he got up he fell and hit his head. He tried to get up again but he was wobbling.’
Head teacher Rachel Nye said the new adventure playground had been built in December 2010 and safety checks carried out in January last year.
All children had been told how to use the equipment, adding: ‘To my knowledge there were no children in the school who didn’t know how to use the adventure playground or the rules when playing on it.’
She said there was nothing wrong with the equipment and that all staff had been doing everything they should at the time.
Professor Sebastian Lucas, who conducted a post-mortem examination, could not determine a cause of death but said it was most likely that Samuel suffered a vagal cardiac arrest.
He said: ‘It is possible, it is conceivable, that somehow he twisted his neck and that has stretched or put a sudden impact on the vagus nerve, which is one of the nerves coming from the brain.
‘It is the nerve that controls heartbeat.
‘We know that the vagus nerve can suddenly do things to stop the heart.
‘We see this in situations where there is blunt trauma to the neck.’
Samuel’s uncle Prince Elisery said: ‘He was very strong, calm and helpful. He would talk to everyone.
‘We will miss him.‘
The school’s headteacher Rachael Nye also paid tribute to her ‘delightful’ pupil saying she was ‘deeply saddened’ by his death.
The playground was taped off after the accident and police stood outside where floral tributes were laid.
The hearing continues.
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