Adriaan Roodt’s mother described him as being a ray of sunshine in his family’s life. When he tragically died after playing a school game, she said it was as if “a light was turned off for us”.
The 17-year-old Campbell High School student was playing Capture the Flag near Canberra’s Mount Ainslie in 2018 when he was struck in the head by a six-metre, 185 kg log. He died in hospital later that day.
His mother, Sandra Roodt, read a statement from their family to an ACT Coroner’s Court inquest into his death on Tuesday (12 April). She said three-and-a-half years after Adriaan’s death, they were still “stumbling through the darkness”, trying to come to terms with their “indescribable loss”.
Ms Roodt said it was ironic she and Adriaan’s father, Chris Roodt, immigrated to Australia because they wanted their children to grow up in a country where they could be safe and have a future.
“Children should be safe at school and the teachers should have access to the necessary resources and training to ensure the safety of the children in their care,” Ms Roodt said.
“No child should die because of injuries they sustain at school and no teacher should be put in a situation where they cannot ensure the safety of a child in their care.”
Counsel assisting the coroner Rebecca Curran said five teachers took about 120 students to Remembrance Park at the base of Mount Ainslie to play Capture the Flag on 18 October 2018.
Capture the Flag is a well-known game played in schools where the aim is to grab the opposing team’s flag. If you are tagged by an opponent then you must sit in “jail” until you are freed.
A boy at the scene described what happened to police and his account was read to the courtroom by barrister Jamie Ronald, who represented Adriaan’s family.
The boy said the game had started and Adriaan was sitting in jail with several other students when they saw the log, which one of them thought they could lift. Several tried without success.
He said one student kept on “bugging” them to do it, so they tried to flip the log. They raised it fairly high before someone yelled to move out of the way and everyone jumped clear.
As it came down Adriaan was hit on the head, despite a student trying to pull him out of the way.
The boy was left on the phone to Triple Zero while other students ran to get help from the teachers.
Mr Ronald said from this account it was clear the students’ efforts to lift the log were over an extended period, but the evidence was also that no teacher saw any attempt to lift it.
He said the decision to play Capture the Flag appeared to have only been made that morning with no particular planning and “seems to have been an ad hoc decision because it was a nice day”.
He also said the family wanted to acknowledge the bravery of the students who were confronted by the horrific scene and they hoped the inquest would answer the question of how it was that in 2018 the students were in a situation where they had to be the first responders.
Ms Curran said Adriaan did not regain consciousness after he was struck in the head by the log. When he was taken to Canberra Hospital, he was found to have severe injuries which doctors said were not survivable.
Vanessa Thomas, for the ACT Education Directorate, acknowledged no formal risk assessment had been undertaken for Capture the Flag.
However, she said “this terrible accident has been a catalyst for reflection for the directorate” and a taskforce instigated afterwards has resulted in the complete revision of policies and procedures that were in place at the time, among other developments.
The court heard Adriaan’s family moved to Australia from South Africa and lived in Yass while Adriaan himself was an enthusiastic boxer, a capable sportsman and known as a “good guy”.
Coroner James Stewart adjourned the inquest to a date to be fixed.