Helmet may have saved skater's life

A Levels' man whose wife died after hitting her head while ice skating is happy the coroner is encouraging all skating rink operators to provide protective helmets free of charge.

Irene Elizabeth Peckitt, a farmer, wife and mother, died in Timaru Hospital on September 4, 2010, four days after she had gone to the Alpine Springs skating rink at Lake Tekapo as a parent helper on a school trip.

She fell while skating, hitting the back of her head. She had headaches that night and Mrs Peckitt with her husband Richard visited the family GP the following day.

Mrs Peckitt was admitted to hospital mid-morning and had a CT scan which showed bruising to the brain, bleeding, and a small fracture to her skull.

The following morning she said she felt "well" but experienced further headaches later in the day. It was while being checked by the on-call surgeon on September 4, that she was found to be unresponsive.

CPR was conducted, but Mrs Peckitt was pronounced dead soon after.

In his written findings, coroner Richard McElrea found that if Mrs Peckitt had been wearing a protective helmet she may well have avoided serious injury.

He is encouraging other skating rink operators to provide protective helmets free of charge just as Alpine Springs had done the day Mrs Peckitt went skating. He said the case highlighted the importance of all skaters wearing helmets, regardless of their level of competence.

Mr Peckitt agreed with Mr McElrea's recommendation. He too had planned to go on the skating trip, but was unable to at the last minute.

If he had gone, he suspected he would not have worn a helmet, noting none of the teachers had done so that day.

At the same time he said the school had included cycle helmets on the list of items the youngsters were to take to Tekapo with them.

While he was keen to see helmets offered free of charge at all ice skating rinks, Mr Peckitt believed it should then be up to the individual whether they chose to wear them.

The Department of Labour told the inquest no accident data was kept on ice-skating injuries so the true incidence of such accidents might not be recognised within the industry.

Mr Peckitt had no issues with the care his wife received while in hospital.

She died of aspiration of altered blood from gastric erosions complicating brain swelling and presumed coma as a result of her head injury.

The Timaru Herald