April 5, 2022, 9:23 PM
A mother-of-two has died after being hit by a traditional horse costume during a Cornish May Day parade, an inquest has heard.
Laura Smallwood, 34, fell unconscious shortly after being hit in the neck by the large wooden hoop carried by a masked dancer, the Cornwall Coroner said on Tuesday.
The pediatric nurse died at Derriford Hospital on May 4, 2019, three days after the centuries-old ‘Obby’ Oss festival was held in Padstow.
Senior Coroner Andrew Cox said her death may also have been caused by an injury sustained during an argument with a woman earlier in the day.
The cause of his death was made even more mysterious by a medical report which asked whether an existing injury days or weeks before could have been to blame, the inquest heard.
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Ms Smallwood was hit in the head during a ‘fight’ with a woman around 6.15pm on the day of the parade, the inquest heard.
The woman, who was arguing with her boyfriend and another boy, said she pushed Ms Smallwood when she tried to intervene, the coroner said.
A witness described hearing a ‘punch’ or ‘slap’ when the woman came into contact with Ms Smallwood and recalled seeing her sunglasses fly off her head and onto the road.
Kirsten Norfolk, a local priest, said she remembered seeing a mark on her friend Ms Smallwood’s forehead afterwards.
However, Ms Smallwood ‘seemed good’ and ‘laughed at it’.
Another witness, Sian Howells, told the court that about an hour later she saw the workhorse – known as ‘Obby’ Oss or simply ‘Oss – having a ‘significant impact’ with the back of his neck of Mrs. Smallwood when her wearer fell.
Minutes later, Ms Smallwood complained that she was ‘dizzy’ before the right side of her face started to ‘sag’, her breathing became ‘worked’ and she went ‘really white or blue” and lost consciousness.
One woman started CPR before paramedics arrived, the inquest found.
Ms Smallwood’s husband Oliver recalled working at a local pub around 7pm when he received a phone call saying she had been ‘knocked out’ and ‘hit by the Oss’.
Mr Smallwood was initially told she was ‘OK’ but, when he arrived in a nearby field where she was, he saw people trying to resuscitate her.
“I could already see that Laura was lying on the floor,” he said.
“She was getting CPR.”
Mr Smallwood told the inquest he accompanied Laura by air ambulance to the hospital, where he was first told the situation was ‘positive’ as doctors found no damage, although ‘they don’t know why she was deeply unconscious.
He told the court that his wife was a “very happy”, “willing”, “really fun” and “very caring” woman.
Kevin Constance, the horse man, said the fullness of the risk assessments had been increased “to some degree”.
He told the inquest: “May I offer my sincere condolences and sympathy to the family? This is not the kind of thing I wanted to happen.”
In June 2019, police said they would not charge anyone in Ms Smallwood’s death.
The investigation is continuing.