Mother-of-two died after 'being hit in neck by horse costume' during May Day parade

5 April 2022, 21:23

Laura Smallwood died after being hit in the neck by the large wooden circle worn
Laura Smallwood died after being hit in the neck by the large wooden circle worn. Picture: Alamy/Facebook

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A mother-of-two 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 circle worn by a masked male dancer, Cornwall's coroner was told on Tuesday.

The paediatric nurse died in 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 a row with a woman earlier in the day.

The cause of her death was made even more mysterious by a medical report which asked whether an existing injury, from days or weeks before, could have been to blame, the inquest was told.

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Mrs Smallwood was hit in the head during a "scuffle" with a woman at about 6.15pm on the day of the parade, the inquest heard.

The woman, who was in an argument with her boyfriend and another boy, said she pushed Mrs Smallwood when she tried to intervene, the coroner was told.

One witness described hearing a "wallop" or a "slap" when the woman made contact with Mrs Smallwood and recalled seeing her sunglasses fly off her head and into the road.

Kirsten Norfolk, a local priest, said she remembered seeing a mark on her friend Mrs Smallwood's forehead afterwards.

However, Mrs Smallwood "seemed fine" and "laughed it off".

Another witness, Sian Howells, told the court that, around an hour later, she saw the hobby horse - known as the 'Obby 'Oss or just 'Oss - make a "significant impact" with the back of Mrs Smallwood's neck when its carrier fell.

Minutes later, Mrs Smallwood complained she was "dizzy" before the right side of her face began "drooping", her breathing became "laboured" and she turned "really white or blue" and lost consciousness.

A woman began CPR before paramedics arrived, the inquest heard.

Mrs Smallwood's husband Oliver recalled working in a local pub at around 7pm when he received a phone call telling him she had been "knocked out" and "had been 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 ground," he said.

"She was having CPR administered to her."

Mr Smallwood told the inquest he accompanied Laura by air ambulance to hospital, where he was first told the situation was "positive" because medics could not find any damage, though they were unsure of why she was deeply unconscious.

He told the court his wife was a "very happy", "strong-willed", "really fun", and "very caring" woman.

Kevin Constance, the man in the horse, said the fullness of risk assessments have been increased "to a degree".

He told the inquest: "Can I offer my sincere condolences and sympathies to the family? This isn't the sort of thing that I wanted to happen."

In June 2019, police said they would not be charging anyone in relation to Mrs Smallwood's death.

The inquest continues.