Davis injury `virtually untreatable'

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Richard Davis, the National Hunt jockey, who died in a fall at Southwell in July, would probably not have been saved even if the racecourse's much criticised safety procedures had been up to scratch, a coroner was told yesterday.

Davis, 26, was killed by devastating injuries sustained when Mr Sox struck the first fence and capsized. An inquest in Mansfield yesterday heard that the jockey's liver was torn and there was considerable damage to his vena cava, one of two large veins that convey blood to the heart. He lost eight pints of blood before suffering heart failure.

It was considered at the time that a 39-minute delay in transferring Davis between ambulances may have contributed to his death, but this theory was all but extinguished yesterday by John Doran, a consultant surgeon at the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham. He said that even if Davis had been given immediate treatment it would have been difficult to save him. "It is an injury that is virtually untreatable," he said. Dr Alan Stevens, a consultant pathologist, added: "It was a severe compression injury and I believe the most likely way for it to happen was by heavy pressure on the abdomen.''

Davis had visited the stables of Laura Shally, Mr Sox's trainer, in the build-up to the race. "Richard had gone up to Miss Shally's but there wasn't anywhere to school the horse over fences, so he ended up giving the horse a gallop instead," Luke Harvey, who also rode in the Southwell race, told the court.

Just before the novices' handicap chase the two men had spoken. "We were rather jokingly discussing our chances," Harvey said. "He felt an anticipation about the race but none more so than the rest of us." Harvey added that Mr Sox "seemed dumbstruck" as he approached the initial obstacle. "In that situation you are just a passenger," he said. "If they don't help themselves there's not much you can do.''

The death of Davis - the seventh jockey killed in action in Britain during the past 15 years - initiated an inquiry into safety arrangements at Southwell. A Jockey Club report released yesterday expressed concerns about medical facilities at the course. In particular, there was criticism of the ambulance cover. The Jockey Club's instruction 11 states there should be at least one "front line paramedic ambulance staffed by someone who is National Health Service Training Department-trained and in active service as a paramedic". On 19 July, Southwell racecourse was covered by a private ambulance service, Ambulink, which they were subsequently advised not to re-employ. The report added that "serious concern has focussed on the quality of the ambulance and the qualifications of the crew as required by the Jockey Club. These are the subject of further investigation which may be referred to the Disciplinary Committee.''

Southwell's safety net subsequently caused one of the more bizarre passages in the Jockey Club's year, when Dr Michael Turner, its chief medical adviser, first offered his resignation and then remained in his post after his employers agreed to his plea for a formal inspection of the course's medical services.

Yesterday's announcement further refuted post-accident suggestions that Mr Sox was unfit to run in the race. There had been an accusation that the five-year-old had run with a fractured pelvis, but the report added that "the veterinary surgeon who attended the horse earlier in the summer has confirmed that his examinations showed no evidence of any pelvic fracture", and that "neither the Jockey Club veterinary officer nor the racecourse veterinary surgeon on duty at Southwell noticed any obvious sign of lameness in the paddock or on the way to the start".

The inquiry also exonerated Laura Shally, whose yard met the requirements of a permit trainer, and at least one part of the Southwell workforce as the condition of the track was found to have made no contribution to Davis's death.

In his summing up Dr Nigel Chapman, the Nottinghamshire coroner, said: "There has been problems about the type of ambulance and medical services provided but both the pathologist and the surgeon said that even if the surgeon had been there at the time the outcome would have been the same." The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.