A sad accident occurred at Rushden on Wednesday night, resulting in the death of James Whitmee, aged 18, of 121, Cromwell-road, Rushden.
The members of the Rushden Town Cricket Club were practising on the town ground, when Eric Tomkins, who was batting, hit the ball into a large ash tree near the pavilion, where it lodged about 30 or 40 feet from the ground.
A boy named Charles Clark climbed up the tree and out on the branch where the ball was, but before he got within reach of it the bough began to crack ominously, and Clark came down.
Whitmee then climbed the tree, despite warnings from Clark and the cricketers. He succeeded in getting out on the branch almost to the ball, and had a firm hold of another branch above his head. The one on which he was standing, however, gave way, and the bough above him, being unable to bear the whole of his weight, also gave way, Whitmee falling heavily on the fence which goes round the ground. He fell so that the top of the fence caught him just below the breast, rather on the left side. His ribs were smashed in, and his heart and left lung were severely injured. He got to the ground and walked a few steps, when someone laid him on the ground. Mr. Oswald Knight, who was near, immediately went for Dr. Greenfield, but Whitmee expired directly the doctor arrived. Meantime Mr. Archie Ablett had gone for the ambulance. P.C. Knights was soon on the scene, and Whitmee was removed home on the ambulance litter by Sergt. Avery and P.C. Knights.
The unfortunate youth was a shoehand at the factory of Messrs. Knight and Lawrence, and he resided with his parents.
An inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Whitmee was held at the out-door beerhouse of Mr. M. Southam yesterday afternoon before the Deputy Coroner (Mr. J. C. Parker). Mr. H. H. Hobbs was foreman of the jury.
The Coroner said they had met concerning the death of a lad named Whitmee, who had climbed up a tree for the purpose of getting down a cricket ball. The branch on which he stood broke and he fell across a fence, dying shortly afterwards from the injuries he received.
Samuel Whitmee, of 121, Cromwell-road, Rushden, general labourer, said : The body is that of my son, James Whitmee. He was 18 years of age and lived with me. He was a shoehand. I know nothing about this accident.
Charles Clark, of 2, Blinco-road, Rushden, said : Last night, at about 7.45, a cricket ball got stuck up in a tree. I tried to get it down by going up the tree, but could not manage it. It was about 30 or 40 feet up in the tree. Whitmee then tried and he got up the tree, on to the bough where the ball was, but the ball was further out. He bent over and took hold of another bough to try and reach the ball, when the bough he was standing on broke and then the other one broke when it got all his weight. Whitmee then fell through the tree and hit some of the boughs, finally falling on the fence, which is about eight feet high. He was then covered with boughs. I saw him get down, and he walked a few steps, and then somebody laid him on the ground and the doctor was sent for at once. Some of the cricketers looked after him. He was not moved about.
The Foreman : There was not anyone else up in the tree with him?
Witness : No.
A Juryman : Did you hear anyone advise him not to go up in the tree?
Witness : All the cricketers did.
The Coroner : Did you tell him the branch would not be safe with him on it?
Witness : I told him it would not be safe as it had cracked when I was on it.
Dr. Greenfield, of Rushden, said : Last night at about 7.45 I was called to the cricket ground. I went at once, and saw deceased lying on the ground under a tree from which it was said that he had fallen. He died directly after I got there. He was quite unconscious when I got there, and he was bleeding from the mouth. He died from injuries received from the fall. He broke several ribs on his left side, and his lung was inured, from which the air escaped. He was a hopeless case from the start.
The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”
The jury decided to give their fees to the mother of the unfortunate young man.