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Raft of safety ‘failures’ on night Mexican wrestler died in the ring

Coroner's inquest held into the death of Silver King at the Roundhouse

17 October, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Wrestler Silver King

A “WHOLE raft” of failures in first aid occurred at a Mexican wrestling show at the Roundhouse when a famous performer collapsed on stage and died, a coroner ruled.

César González Barrón, known as the Silver King, did not get up off the ring floor during a bout at the Lucha Libre event in May at the Chalk Farm Road venue.

Many in the audience thought it was part of the performance, but 51-year-old Mr Gonzalez Barron, who stared in film Nacho Libre, was in cardiac arrest and died in the ring, likely from his physical exertion.

St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard how it was not until five minutes after his loss of consciousness that an ambulance was called and, prior to paramedics arriving, CPR given to him was “ineffective”.

Senior coroner Mary Hassell said “multiple” failures in early treatment meant the wrestler “lost the opportunity to have the best treatment possible and lost the opportunity of survival that otherwise would have been afforded to him”.

Crowds leave the venue in May as emergency services arrive

She added: “When I talk about failures in first aid I’m talking about a whole raft, the whole context of the first aid that was offered. “In every way there was a failure properly to plan to ensure that everybody knew what they were doing, that procedures were in place so that first and foremost a person who became unwell in the ring would be identified immediately.”

In her narrative determination she said: “Immediate effective defibrillator-assisted CPR would have given Mr Gonzalez Barron a significant greater likelihood of survival.”

Ms Hassell is to prepare a Prevention of Future Deaths report to send to the event organiser and the Roundhouse. She said it was “unclear” whether there is a professional body responsible for the regulation of wrestling, but said she would also be delivering her findings to them if she does identify one.

She said: “It seems Mexican wrestling does not have the same procedures in place as other sports such as regular wrestling or other martial arts. I’m thinking particularly of having at least a paramedic on ringside or at least somebody whose responsibility it is to ensure that the performers in the ring are still healthy and that any event is recognised immediately.”

Ms Hassell said the cause of death was natural causes of severe heart disease, with the likely trigger being additional stress put on Mr Gonzalez Barron’s heart by the bout.

A post-mortem examination showed that he had longstanding high blood pressure.

Dr Alan Bates, who presented the findings on behalf of his colleague, who carried out the postmortem, said the wrestler had suffered a previous heart attack “many months at least or years ago”.

He added: “I don’t think one can say it was probable he would have survived had resuscitation been commenced immediately, but there would have been a significantly greater likelihood.”

Mark Faulkner, a London Ambulance Service manager, told the inquest recent research shows there is a 22 per cent decrease chance in survival for every minute without resuscitation in a shockable cardiac arrest. “After four to five minutes the chance of survival is close to zero,” he said.

Paramedic Cara Mitchell told the inquest how, after the ambulance pulled up at the front of the Roundhouse, the crew were led on foot around the back of the venue by a member of security which took between two and five minutes to reach the ring.

She agreed that she would have liked to have been at the patient’s side quicker and said when they arrived, chest compressions being given by one person seemed “very fast” and “ineffective”.

Event promoter Ruben Cordero had organised the first responder, Katharine Locke, from company First Aid Cover. Ms Locke said she thought she was there for the crowd and when told that she also may have to be there for a performer, she asked if there was a doctor, and the person she was speaking to said: “I don’t know.”

She claims she was not told what the emergency was when a “steward or security person” urgently knocked on the door saying she was “needed for a player” and when she got to Mr Gonzalez Barron with her response bag, a man who told her he was a doctor was helping.

About why she did not take the defibrillator with her on her first trip to the ring, she said: “I was not expecting a cardiac arrest. I had been told I was there for the crowd. In fact when I got on the scene I was thinking: had the man fallen, was it an issue of protecting the spine?” The court heard how there was not a contractual arrangement between the Roundhouse and the organiser over who is responsible for briefing the first-aider.

Mr Cordero, who said he brought the first Mexican wrestling show to the Roundhouse in 2007, believed it would be the Roundhouse’s responsibility but said he should have “pressed” to be in charge of that.

“I never thought something like this could happen,” he said. “Mexican wrestling is very much theatre and although there’s a lot of action, everything is calculated.”

He added: “I would prefer to have been in charge of briefing first-aiding and security as well.”

He said medicals do not take place and Mr Gonzalez Barron had not told him about his ill-health.

Asked if the systems in place for the care of Mr Gonzalaz Barron if he became ill were adequate, he said: “Looking at this now I don’t think they were.” No one from the Roundhouse gave evidence at the inquest.

A spokesman for the venue said they were not invited to speak. They added: “Firstly, our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of César Cuauhtémoc González Barrón. “The coroner will be providing us with a full report in due course and we will study the recommendations carefully. “We continually review our health and safety procedures and we will consider any recommendations in the coroner’s report.”

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