Thursday, January 27, 2011

The reality of re-enactment --- jousting

The Independent reports on the official investigation of a modern jouster's death. 

These passages struck me:
A man died during a jousting re-enactment because of failures to ensure a correct helmet was worn and failures to ensure his shield was appropriately assembled, a coroner ruled today.
Paul Anthony Allen died after a splinter went through the eye hole of his helmet, penetrating his eye and then brain, as the event was being filmed for Channel 4's Time Team programme....
Mr Allen, who had never jousted before despite practising with a lance and shield, was hit by a splinter from a balsa wood tip designed to break on impact with the opponent's shield for safety, the inquest heard.It broke off, as it was supposed to, but a piece of wood flew up through the eye-slit of his helmet, hitting his eye socket.
The accident happened during a warm-up run for a sequence to have been used in a special edition of the archaeological programme, hosted by former Blackadder star Tony Robinson.
Mr Allen was airlifted to hospital with the splinter of balsa wood still in his eye and his eye hanging from its socket, the inquest heard.

He had an operation to remove the splinter, which penetrated 5in (13cm) into his head, but his condition did not improve and he died on September 20.The cause of death was given as cardio-respiratory failure and a severe penetrating brain injury, the inquest heard.

Today, Northamptonshire Coroner Anne Pember said failures led to Mr Allen's death.
She said: "There were failures a) to engage a rider with a proven track record of lance-breaking jousting, b) to ensure the correct helmet or helm for jousting was used and c) to ensure that the shield had been appropriately assembled for jousting purposes." She passed her condolences to Mr Allen's family but added: "I know Mr Allen was doing what he absolutely loved when he met his untimely death."

Her comments were echoed by Mr Allen's wife, Sharon McCann, who said after the inquest that her husband had died doing something he loved. "If he could have written his script this would have been his chosen end," she said."I believe that those involved were acting in good faith.
"With hindsight there may be lessons to be learned which, I hope, will prevent anything similar happening again."
 The inquest heard that both Miss McCann and Mr Allen had both been involved in historical re-enactment for around 14 years. About 10 years before the accident, Mr Allen had given up his job teaching English, drama and history to concentrate on re-enactment, Miss McCann said.
But she added that, as far as she knew, he had never done a performance joust before...

The inquest heard that Mr Allen was due to receive the blow with a lance wielded by fellow rider Adam Plant, from Old Ellerby in Hull, and was not due to strike a blow himself. 

But in a report read to the court, jousting expert Mike Loades said Mr Allen had an unsuitable helmet for jousting, and was holding his shield wrong. He said the helmet, called a Great Helm, was suitable only for carnival jousting, as its eye holes were too big and the top part of it, above the eyes, protruded more than the part below the eyes - when it should have been the other way round. His report also found that Mr Allen was holding his shield in the way it should have been held for infantry, rather than cavalry.

He said: "The key to jousting is the correct body equipment."If the armour is right, then any other mistakes will be relatively harmless. "Mr Loades said jousting had an extremely good safety record and that record should not be compromised by this incident. He said to describe it 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."

Image:  Someone in that crowd is determined to give it a try...

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