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Hughes Inquest ends, coroner to release findings next month

Associated Press Associated Press 14/10/2016

SYDNEY — A coroner who conducted a five-day inquest into the circumstances surrounded the death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, who was fatally struck by a ball during a domestic match in Sydney in 2014, is expected to release his findings on Nov. 4.

New South Wales state coroner Michael Barnes is investigating whether the nature of play contributed to the risk for the former Australia test batsman, the response by stadium and cricket staff and officials, and whether new guidelines on safety equipment need to be introduced to the sport.

Lawyers for the Hughes family, the state coroner, and Cricket Australia made submissions to the inquiry. Players and officials from the New South Wales and South Australia state teams that were involved in the Sheffield Shield game when Hughes was struck on the head by a fast, sharply rising ball, also appeared to answer questions or gave statements.

A lawyer for the Hughes family said the 25-year-old batsman, who was playing for South Australia against his former teammates from New South Wales, was subjected to an extraordinary amount of short-pitch bowling, that umpires didn't contain the number of bouncers to two per over, and alleged that fast bowler Doug Bollinger engaged in verbal abuse, including a comment that sounded like "I'm going to kill you."

Bollinger denied using the phrase, and his teammates including Australia vice-captain David Warner said they didn't remember hearing any threat. Tom Cooper, the South Australia batsman on the field when Hughes was fatally struck, also said he didn't remember any threatening comments from the bowlers.

Sean Abbott, who bowled the delivery that struck Hughes behind the ear and which led to the brain hemorrhage that caused him to die two days later in a Sydney hospital, gave a statement to the inquiry but wasn't required to attend.

Players and umpires involved in the game said there was nothing unusual about the nature of play until Hughes collapsed to the pitch, an accident that stunned cricket followers around the world.

Barnes said the aim of the inquiry wasn't to apportion blame, but to investigate the emergency response and to make recommendations for the future.

Cricket Australia's high-performance manager, Pat Howard, spoke after the inquiry, saying "We're very proud of the conduct of the players, officials and staff throughout," and that the sport's authorities were "open to any suggestions of further improvements we might make."

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