A man aged 39 became the first known person in the world to die of a paintball injury, an inquest was told yesterday.
Kenneth Costin, a father of two, of Bedfordshire, died of a stroke on 31 January, 10 days after he was hit in the back of the neck while taking part in a tournament with friends. Bedford Coroner's Court heard that Mr Costin's neck had been unprotected by the headgear he was wearing.
The tournament's organiser, Steve Bull, told the court that to his knowledge it was the first known death in the world caused by paintball.
Mr Costin's wife, Christina, said that on his return from the competition he told her he had had a "funny turn" and had been talking gibberish.
Two days later, after complaining to his doctor that he had been feeling dizzy and numb, he collapsed at his home in Sandy, Bedfordshire, and was taken to Bedford Hospital.
Mark Berry, a colleague from Mr Costin's team – one of 28 playing that day – said: "A player from the opposing team approached Ken from the other side and shot him in the back of the head from about eight to 10 feet. Later, he slurred his words and said he could not feel his fingers. I took him to the car. I thought he had hypothermia."
The consultant neuropathologist, Dr John Xeureb, told the court that Mr Costin had had a stroke. He said trauma to the head and neck could have forced his arteries to go into spasm.
The inquest was told that there are no rules on what constitutes a safe distance from which to fire a paintball, but players are asked to adhere to "gentlemanly conduct" and not fire at point-blank range.
Mrs Costin wept as she told the inquest: "He said it felt like his head was exploding." A week later, he was "talking gibberish" and was disorientated, she said. "He kept repeating himself and at the time we thought it was funny and we laughed and joked about it. He made himself some toast and then dropped it and kept saying he was looking for something."
Mrs Costin said she found her husband upstairs, where he had collapsed, a short time later. His face had "dropped" and he was dribbling, so she called an ambulance.
The Coroner, David Morris, recording a verdict of death by misadventure, said: "It is not paintballing itself but the general activity that caused him to react in some way, and set off a chain of reactions."
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