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Man, 23, died after driving range 'prank gone wrong' at work Christmas party

Man, 23, died after driving range 'prank gone wrong' at work Christmas party

Conner Groom and his friends were pranking each other at the driving range

A 23-year-old man died after a driving range prank went terribly wrong at a Christmas party.

On 21 December 2021, Conner Groom was celebrating at Topgolf in Chigwell, Essex, when he and his mates began playing pranks on each other.

An inquest has heard that Conner died from a ‘catastrophic’ spinal injury after he fell 3.7 metres from the first floor.

The man from Clacton-on-Sea was pushed by a friend from a bay at the driving range when he fell head first over the edge of the safety nets.

Essex Coroner’s Court heard how Groom and his friends had been drinking throughout the evening before arriving at Topgolf.

Conner Groom. (Essex Live/BPM Media)
Conner Groom. (Essex Live/BPM Media)

After beginning their session, they were playing pranks by pushing or nudging each other to fall onto the safety nets.

Conner was taken to the Royal London Hospital, but his condition worsened and he died from his injuries just over a month later on 25 January, 2022.

Detective Inspector Lydia George told the inquest how officers had taken statements from multiple people at the scene and reviewed the CCTV footage of the incident. She described how the ‘large group’ drank for a bit in the bar before being taken upstairs to bay 36-37.

“All of the CCTV shows them in good spirits and no signs of animosity,” DI George said.

She said the pushes were 'plainly seen as a joke' and said this happened several times with a member of security speaking to them about their behaviour. The friend who ended up pushing Groom was not involved in the previous pushes.




George continued: "Immediately before the fatal push, [Groom's friend] said he was going to push Conner into the net. It was said in a joking manner. He ran to him and pushed him. It was a two-handed push.

"Conner Groom got a foot caught in the net and fell 3.7 meters and sustained catastrophic injuries that proved fatal."

Conner was celebrating with friends in 2021. (Google Maps)
Conner was celebrating with friends in 2021. (Google Maps)

George said a proposed cause of death following the hospital stay for Conner was a hypoxic brain injury by traumatic spinal cord injury.

She said that after being warned to stop the pushing, the group had apologised and said they ‘wouldn't do it again’. Following his fall, the group members were reported saying to staff ‘you have warned us enough times’.

Following Conner’s death, Essex Police consulted with the Crown Prosecution Service and his family about whether to take further action against his friend for the push.

The police eventually chose not to pursue a manslaughter charge as the ‘evidential test was not met’ and the pure intention was for Conner to land on the safety netting.

George added: "The parents of Conner Groom didn't support a prosecution of [his friend]. They believed that Conner would not have wanted to support any action over him as they are good friends."

The police concluded it was a ‘prank that resulted in a tragic accident’.

A senior environmental health officer for Epping Forest Council, Graham Jarvis, conducted a review into Topgolf and its safety procedures following the death.

The court head the venue had made a number of changes to its policies following the tragedy, including signage updates and a more ‘zero tolerance’ approach.

There were several pushes before the fatal fall. (Google Maps)
There were several pushes before the fatal fall. (Google Maps)

Jarvis said: "A new player safety manager role has been created for every UK [Topgolf] venue. The member of staff isn't there every day but is there at the times and days where they are busiest and expect the most consumption of alcohol. They are responsible for the safety management of players."

Coroner Lincoln Brookes said he was completely satisfied there had been no intention of harm by anyone in the group and it had been his friend's full intention for him to land on the safety net.

Brookes said: "I entirely accept that due to high spirits there was nothing malicious whatsoever.

"But it's apparent that unlike the earlier incidents his friend did take a run-up and charge at Mr Groom which explains that he was pushed out more forcefully than others, and rather than landing on the netting, which was what he intended and nothing more, his momentum was such that he want straight over the netting, across it and fell head first to the ground. Alcohol had severely impaired his judgement."

He called the case a ‘terrible tragedy’ and recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

Featured Image Credit: Essex Live/BPM Media

Topics: UK News