Leeds University graduate and former male model Ryan Tilley suffered Sudden Adult Death while playing cricket

A "fit and healthy" Leeds University graduate dropped dead during cricket practice after suffering Sudden Adult Death, an inquest heard.

Thursday, 7th February 2019, 11:28 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 17:16 pm
Talented sportsman and teacher Ryan Tilley, 28, was batting in the nets when he suddenly stumbled backwards, the hearing was told.

Talented sportsman and teacher Ryan Tilley, 28, was batting in the nets when he suddenly stumbled backwards, the hearing was told.The teacher and former male model, who had graduated with a first in politics from Leeds University and had worked for Labour MP Rachel Reeves, had no idea he had the potentially deadly heart defect, the inquest heard.

He was batting in a training session at Christ’s School in Richmond, south west London, with members of Richmond Cricket Club who at first thought he had fainted, the hearing was told.

But when he began fitting they thought he was having an epileptic fit and did not give him CPR, the inquest heard.

Talented sportsman and teacher Ryan Tilley, 28, was batting in the nets when he suddenly stumbled backwards, the hearing was told.

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Despite efforts by paramedics Leicestershire lad Ryan, who was teaching maths at Marylebone Boys’ School in central London, never regained consciousness.

A post-mortem concluded he had suffered Sudden Adult Death caused by arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, or AVRC.

The rare inherited disease is the same one that forced Taylor to retire from cricket at the age of 26, and similar to the one that caused Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba to retire after collapsing on the pitch at White Hart Lane, the inquest heard.

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Richmond Cricket club member Sam Gibbs, the only person with First Aid training, said Ryan was batting well on Sunday February 25th last year before he collapsed.

Mr Gibbs, who had not met Ryan before, said: “He told me he had just moved to London from being abroad.

“He was batting and had faced a small number of deliveries.He appeared to be batting well, he didn’t seem distressed.

“He had started to move into a batting position, then he fell backwards into the net. I did not react immediately as I was uncertain what had happened.

“It quickly became clear that something was wrong as Ryan had not moved or said anything in the few seconds after his collapse.

“After this realisation I began to move towards him, just behind Charles Scholefield who I think reached him first.

“It was clear that Ryan was not well, and although he was breathing was unconscious.

“James began to administer first aid, checking for responsiveness, while others helped by removing his cricket pads, helmet, and gloves, and clearing the area around him as much as possible.

“I ran to my kit bag on the other side of the hall and picked up my mobile phone,

calling 999 as I returned to Ryan.”

Mr Gibbs rang 999 and met the ambulance when it arrived, the inquest heard.

Assistant Coroner Dr Anton Van Dellen read out questions from Ryan’s parents, who were at the hearing.

He said: “Why did the First Aider not respond immediately?”

Mr Gibbs said: “At first it appeared Ryan had fallen rather than collapsed.”

Dr Van Dellen said: “Why was it that the only First Aider went to meet the ambulance, not someone else?”

Mr Gibbs said: “I thought it was the best thing I could do.”

James Arnold, another club member who went to Ryan’s aid, said: “I didn’t see Ryan collapse.

“I heard he just suddenly staggered backwards and fell into the net. My first reaction was that he had fainted.

“When we noticed he was shaking, we thought he might be having an epileptic fit. We thought it was best just to leave him to have the fit.

“But then it didn’t look like he was breathing, it was very sporadic. I put Ryan in the recovery position and held his mouth open.”

The paramedics arrived about five minutes after being called, the inquest heard.

Mr Arnold said: “The paramedics continued to attempt to resuscitate Ryan for about 45 minutes to an hour.”

Charles Scholefield, a captain at Richmond Cricket Club who was in the sports hall when Ryan collapsed, said: “Ryan began by bowling for about 10 minutes.

“I asked if him if he wanted to bat and he said 'yes'.”

“He was lying on his back against the side netting.

“I ran over and called out for someone to get a First Aid kit, I went to him to see what had happened.

“I just shouted 'can someone get First Aid?'

"Ryan was still to start with, I took his helmet off and his eyes rolled. Then he started having a seizure. He was shaking, both his legs and arms were shaking.

“I know if someone is having a fit you just let them be and make sure they don’t injure themselves. He was fitting for about one minute.”

Ryan’s brother, Joe Tilley, asked him if he had checked if Ryan was suffering anything more “sinister” than a seizure.

He said: “Did anyone check for a pulse or chest movement, something that would indicate Ryan was having something more sinister that a seizure?”

Mr Scholefield said: “No. We thought he was a fit and healthy young lad, and it was just a temporary setback.

“If we had been First Aid trained we would have been more perceptive and reactive than we were.”

Mr Tilley asked: “Mr Gibbs was told on the emergency call that it was a cardiac arrest response. Did he tell anyone that?”

Mr Scholefield said: “No.”

The results of two post-mortems found Ryan had died from ARVC and that his heart was “abnormal” and the right ventricle was “floppy”.

Professor Mary Sheppard, a cardiovascular pathologist, said: “The right ventricle shows widespread sub-epicardial fibrosis, both of replacement and interstitial quality.

“There is widespread fatty infiltration admixed with the fibrous tissue and degenerative myocytes.

“Cause of death is arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy involving the right ventricle.

“This is a recognised cause of sudden cardiac death and cardiac failure and is of familial origin in 50 to 80 per cent of cases."

He added: “Males with the disease typically can die during exertion and it is a well known cause of sudden death in sports.”

Dr Olaf Biedrzycki, who performed the other post-mortem, said: “Externally, the heart appeared abnormal with quite a floppy appearing right ventricle.

“The right ventricle fat measured up to 3mm in thickness, the right ventricle measured between 1mm and 2mm in thickness."

He continued: “Post-mortem examination of the major organs and specialist examination of the heart has confirmed my suspicion of right ventricle cardiomyopathy.

“I fully agree with the cardiac pathologist’s opinion regarding immediate screening of close family members.”

He said the school now make sure “all renters” are aware of where it is.

Mr Edwards said: “Ryan’s death has definitely raised our awareness and raised our intent to manage it in a definitive way going forward.”

Nick Pryde, the ECB's interim director of participation, said £1 million will be spent on distributing defibrillators to around 6,500 recreational cricket clubs.

Mr Pryde said: “Currently, it’s not a requirement to have defibrillators. We are working to provide more defibrillators for recreational clubs.

“We are committed to providing more funding for defibrillators over the next few years. Last year we invested £100,000 and will do so again this year.

“We are committed to a £1 million investment across the course of 2020 and 2024.

“A tragic event such as this has caused reflection and has re-enforced the matter.”

County cricketers Josh Cobb and Nathan Buck, who had played cricket with Ryan, were among those to pay tribute following his sudden death.

Ryan's parents Suna and Dave Tilley, in a statement read by the Coroner, said: “He was remarkable in so many ways, not least for being a complete and unassuming gentleman, having a smile that lit up any room.

“His loss has left a huge, devastating and irreplaceable hole in the lives of his family, his girlfriend, his friends and so many more people.

“We couldn’t believe our luck that we had two amazing sons.

“Ryan was not only a son, but so much more. He was unassuming and modest. His smile and sense of humour were infectious.”

Ryan, who played cricket for his native Leicestershire, also excelled in football, the inquest heard.

He went abroad and taught in China and Cambodia after graduating before returning to Britain.

The inquest continues.