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Man plunged 12ft to his death after friend pushed him in drunken golf prank

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Man plunged 12ft to his death after friend pushed him in drunken golf prank

A MAN plunged to his death after a friend pushed him 12ft to the ground in a driving range prank gone wrong, an inquest heard.

Conner Groom, 22, fell 3.7m from a bay at Topgolf in Chigwell, Essex, during a work Christmas party on December 21, 2021.

Conner Groom, 22, plunged to his death after a friend pushed him 12ft

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Conner Groom, 22, plunged to his death after a friend pushed him 12ftCredit: gofundme
He went headfirst over the edge of the safety nets at Topgolf in Chigwell, Essex

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He went headfirst over the edge of the safety nets at Topgolf in Chigwell, EssexCredit: Richard Hoarse
Instead of falling onto the net, Conner went over the edge and fell to the ground

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Instead of falling onto the net, Conner went over the edge and fell to the groundCredit: TripAdvisor

Conner, from Clacton-on-Sea, went headfirst over the edge of the safety nets on the first floor of the range and died five weeks later from a spinal injury.

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

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

Before Conner was pushed by an unnamed friend, there had been seven other incidents of pushes or attempted pushes by the group. 

One of Conner’s friends ran up and pushed him, but instead of falling onto the net, he went over the edge and fell to the ground around 12ft below.

He sustained a serious spinal injury and was later taken to the Royal London Hospital.

Sadly, his condition worsened and he died from his injuries on January 25, 2022.

‘NOTHING MALICIOUS’

Detective Inspector Lydia George, from Essex Police, told the inquest how officers had taken statements from multiple people at the scene and reviewed the CCTV footage of the incident.

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

“A number of times it shows the friends trying to push each other into the safety netting. It was plainly seen as a joke.”

DI George said this happened several times and that a member of security came to speak to the group about their behaviour.

The man who ended up pushing Conner was not involved in the previous pushing incidents, the detective said.

DI George continued: “Immediately before the fatal push, [Conner’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.”

WHAT IS TOPGOLF?

TOPGOLF is a golf driving range game with electronically tracked golf balls and automatically scored drives.

Opened in 2000, it has locations in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Mexico, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Its UK venues include Chigwell, Watford, Surrey and Glasgow.

There are multiple Topgolf game variations such as Topgolf, TopChip, TopShot, TopPressure and Angry Birds.

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

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

The court heard the police eventually chose not to pursue any charge of manslaughter as the “evidential test was not met” and that the pure intention from the push was for Conner to land on the safety netting.

DI 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.”

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

He told the court that the venue had made a number of changes to its policies following the tragic incident, including updates to its signage and a more “zero tolerance” approach to those who push people into the safety nets.

Mr Jarvis added that Epping Forest Council had been satisfied with all the changes made at Topgolf and that no enforcement action had been taken against the venue.

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

Mr Brookes said the case was a “terrible tragedy” and recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

The friends were playing pranks on each other by pushing or nudging each other to fall onto the safety nets

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The friends were playing pranks on each other by pushing or nudging each other to fall onto the safety netsCredit: Alamy
A review was conducted into Topgolf and its safety procedures following Conner's death

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A review was conducted into Topgolf and its safety procedures following Conner’s deathCredit: Google Maps
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