Rugby fan died after falling backwards as he watched ball kicked high over crowd

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A RUGBY fan died when he fell backwards and banged his head after a ball was kicked into the crowd during a match.

John Downey, 79, watched as the ball soared above him but became unsteady on his feet and hit his head on the clubhouse window sill during a rugby league game.

John Downey, 79, hit his head on a clubhouse window sill and was rushed to hospital

The dad-of-three had his hands in his pockets and was part of a 200-strong crowd watching the match when he lost his balance.

John was rushed to hospital but the match between Royal Wootton Bassett and Windsor on January 11 continued.

Sadly the pensioner, of Bradford-Upon-Avon, Wiltshire, died 12 days later.

A post-mortem revealed the cause of death was acute subdural haemorrhage and trauma.

He had been invited to watch the game by his brother, Vice President of Wootton Bassett Rugby Club Joe Downey.


Friends at John’s local cricket club said: “He was a great character with a huge appetite for living life to the full and a most generous and likeable of men with an interesting opinion on a wide range of subjects.

“He would be seen often in the clubhouse on match days, pint in hand, surrounded by a close group of friends.

“He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.” Royal Wootton Bassett rugby club said it was John’s first visit and he had been invited as a guest to the vice president’s lunch.

In a statement the club chair Chris Elias said: “John was a guest of Ron Low at the Vice President’s lunch and was enjoying his first visit to RWBRFC.

“During the game John fell backwards on the patio striking his head on the clubhouse window sill.”

He added: “It was a freak accident. We have had to tell the HQ of the RFU.

“He was a guest of one of our members. The game continued.” A match report recalled the game between Royal Wootton Bassett and Windsor was “probably the most stunning end to a league game’ ever seen at the ground”.

Royal Wootton Bassett were defeated 20 points to 21 by Windsor deep into injury time.

The Rugby Football Union confirmed it had been told of the incident and said in a statement: “It is such a sad situation. We have been in liaison with the club and are supporting them. We are aware of the incident.” John leaves behind his wife Julie, his son Mark, his two daughters and his brother Joe Downey.

An inquest at Salisbury Coroner’s Court was adjourned to be heard at a later date.