A coroner called for more paramedics at fight events but ruled that the death of a a female kickboxer who was knocked out in an organised bout was a tragic accident.
Amateur fighter Saeideh Aletaha took what her friends described as a ‘big punch’ from her ‘clearly stronger’ opponent Janie Morgan, 34, at a Fast and Furious Fight Series contest in 2019.
But paramedics who treated her at the bout said they did not think she had suffered a ‘severe’ knockout, an inquest at Winchester Crown Court heard.
Ms Aletaha, 26, who started the sport to prove Muslim women could do extreme sports in a Hijab, later collapsed in a bathroom before being found by a friend.
She was rushed to Southampton General Hospital, Hants, but tragically died a day after the event.
Hampshire senior coroner Christopher Wilkinson today ruled that Ms Aletaha died as a result of a ‘tragic accident’, which nobody could have predicted.
Saeideh Aletaha, 26, was found dying after being knocked out in an organised bout. A coroner today ruled that Ms Aletaha died as a result of a ‘tragic accident’
Mr Wilkinson described the devastating brain bleed suffered by the kickboxer as ‘entirely unexpected and very unusual’.
But Mr Wilkinson did raise concerns over how many paramedics should be deployed to amateur boxing events as he gave his ruling.
Giving a conclusion of accidental death, Mr Wilkinson said: ‘While many will have felt they could have done more, I’m not sure anything much more could have been done to have helped her.
‘Taking everything into account and the severity of the injuries sustained by one or more of the punches, she died as a result of these injuries.
‘She and her opponent entered into this event willingly, understanding the injury risks of contact sport.’
Mr Wilkinson said there are ‘risks’ associated with knockout blows, which come as part of the sport, adding that paramedics could not have helped Ms Aletaha.
He continued: ‘It’s inherent that knockout blows are a part of this sport and there’s risks associated with it.
‘She was tired, dropping her guard, and failed to anticipate a punch landing in a way that caused significant injury.
‘It was not in any way intended and sadly it was entirely unexpected and very unusual.
‘This was a tragic accident. There was a risk but not one that anyone could have foreseen and taken measures to prevent.’
The amateur fighter took what her friends described as a ‘big punch’ from her ‘clearly stronger’ opponent Janie Morgan (pictured) at a Fast and Furious Fight Series contest in 2019
But the coroner did call for more paramedics to be present at boxing events, as the two who treated Ms Aletaha had to leave her alone to return to ringside.
It emerged in court that medic John Scott and colleague Robert Milham assessed the fighter on the mat of the cage where she fought but said ‘she was not showing any neurological abnormalities’.
Mr Scott, a private ambulance paramedic, then sat with Ms Aletaha for around 10 minutes and returned ringside, but soon after she collapsed in the cubicle of a toilet.
But Mr Wilkinson ruled that organisers were ‘experienced’, did everything they could to put on a fair and safe show, and ‘strived to set the benchmark’.
Coroner Mr Wilkinson said: ‘It is regrettable in my view that she was not watched under observation for longer.
‘By my estimation she was left by herself for five minutes before going to get changed.
‘I have questioned whether two paramedics is enough [at boxing events] and I still question it. It is a matter to be questioned going forward.
‘It is conceivable that two or more injuries are sustained throughout the course of an evening. It’s something that warrants consideration.’
He added that Ms Aletaha’s opponent Janie Morgan was ‘broader and more muscular’, but said it was an even match-up, and Ms Aletaha was slightly heavier.
He said: ‘On balance, it is my view that the bout was evenly matched, it met the requirements of the weight category.
‘If anything, on paper Saeideh had a slight advantage given her experience.’
Her best friend, Kaja Kulczcka, criticised the decision to leave Ms Aletaha on her own and tearfully told her inquest how she found her in the toilet the moment she fell critically ill.
It comes a day after Ms Aletaha’s family raised concerns she had been mismatched with an opponent who was ‘much bigger and more muscled’.
Friend Kaja Kulczcka today criticised the decision to leave Ms Aletaha on her own and tearfully told her inquest how she found her in the toilet the moment she fell critically ill
Mr Wilkinson paid tribute to the tragic kickboxer and passed on his condolences to her family, saying she was a ‘credit’ to her family and was a very ‘gentle person’.
He added: ‘She bore the characteristics of a determined and focused young lady who applied herself in everything that she did.
‘She was one who was fiercely proud of her achievements and herself. She was an individual who didn’t want to let anyone down.
‘She was determined to do the best she could and prove as a ‘Muslim lady’ she could do anything and went on to do a significant amount.’
The hearing was told that during the showcase martial arts event in Southampton, Hants, ‘top-heavy’ personal trainer Janie Morgan knocked ‘slim’ Ms Aletaha out with a right hook to the side of the jaw and she ‘folded’.
Today Miss Kulczcka said it was ‘brutal’.
‘A big punch landed to her face, it was brutal to see the way she fell on the floor’, she told Winchester Coroner’s Court, Hants.
‘She slumped down, it was a heavy knock-down. Her knee gave way. There was a few heavy punches before that final punch and a few of them were to the face. She didn’t look as strong as before.’
After the fight, concerned Miss Kulczcka wanted to find her friend to check on her but wasn’t allowed in the fighters’ area, however she was informed Ms Aletaha had gone to the toilet.
She burst into tears as she recalled finding Loughborough University graduate Ms Aletaha on November 16, 2019.
She said: ‘She was in the cubicle and I asked if she needed any help and she said no so I waited.
‘I heard her growling in pain, she was in a lot of pain. There was something wrong so I banged on the door and said ‘let me help you’ and that’s when she let me in.
The hearing was told that during the showcase martial arts event in Southampton, ‘top-heavy’ 34 year old personal trainer Janie Morgan knocked ‘slim’ Ms Aletaha out with a right hook to the side of the jaw and she ‘folded’
Ms Aletaha had started the sport to prove Muslim women could do extreme sports in a Hijab. Pictured: The 26-year-old after a previous fight
‘She lost consciousness, she laid herself down slowly on the floor but was fighting to control it.
‘She was still trying to be brave.
‘I just saw her eyes going back and I shouted out for help.’
People rushed to help, including on-site paramedics Mr Scott and Mr Milham, but Miss Kulczcka said they ‘waited forever’ for an ambulance to arrive after calling 999.
‘I remember we were screaming two times for an ambulance, but it felt like it took forever.
‘I can’t really remember how long it was but it felt like a long time.’
Miss Kulczcka also said: ‘I just wish after the fight she was not left alone, she was on her own there.
‘I don’t know what happened. Her corner [boxing team] should be the people who know her well… If I could have gone in there and been with her I could have spotted if something was different about her.
‘She had people asking if she’s OK… but she’s the type of person that does not complain. Maybe I could have spotted something was wrong.’
Miss Kulczcka said at Southampton General Hospital a doctor told her even if Ms Aletaha had been brought in sooner she would have died.
Giving evidence, paramedic Mr Scott said Ms Aletaha, from Salisbury, Wilts, did not present as being seriously unwell when she was knocked out.
Ms Aletaha was more experienced than Ms Morgan ‘on paper’, the organiser claimed today
She was conscious by the time he got to her in the cage, interacted well, spoke and moved well, Mr Scott said.
He said: ‘She was not showing any neurological abnormalities. It was not a severe knockout.’
Ms Aletaha did not want the stretcher and walked out back ‘of her own accord’.
There, Mr Scott sat with her and said her ‘pupils were fine’ and after 10 minutes Ms Aletaha ‘wanted him to leave’.
Her coach Joe Ludlof also sat with Ms Aletaha – who he said was ‘dazed’ – but left after ’10 or 15 minutes’.
When Miss Kulczcka raised the alarm in the toilet, Mr Scott said Ms Aletaha showed signs she had a bleed on the brain.
When asked why he and Mr Milham did not transport Ms Aletaha to hospital in their ambulance, he said they needed to provide medical care to her together and that a South Central Ambulance crew would know the route better and be able to prepare for her arrival at hospital better.
Mr Scott said in hindsight he does not regret the decision and said the crew arrived promptly.
Mr Scott, a paramedic since 1983, said: ‘In my experience it’s very rare that there’s any further complications from a knockout.
‘There’s nothing that we could have done differently.’
Miss Kulczcka paid tribute to her friend, saying: ‘She was always really hard-working and focused on achieving her goals, but she was also very humble and would never do anything to hurt anyone.
‘Everyone loved her, she was like sunshine walking into the room.
‘She was very ambitious, would always treat everyone equally, and very kind.
‘She was a little warrior, that’s what we’d call her.’
Ms Aletaha, who was born into a religious family in Iran, moved to the UK to study and was a product design engineer at the time of her death.
She had four years experience in martial arts and ahead of the fight with Ms Morgan she had two wins and one loss in Thai boxing.
Her family, watching the inquest remotely from the UAE, said Ms Aletaha wanted to prove a ‘Muslim Lady’ could compete in extreme sports even if she was wearing a hijab.