Holiday rep refused medical help for head injury, inquest told

·4-min read
Kayleigh Harris (Collect/PA Real Life/PA)
Kayleigh Harris (Collect/PA Real Life/PA)

A young holiday rep who died from a head injury after being hit by a skier while working during a season in the French Alps declined to seek medical help because of the cost involved, an inquest has heard.

Kayleigh Harris, 23, was working in a hotel in the resort of Les Menuires for the company Skibound in 2016 when a skier collided with her when she was out snowboarding.

Miss Harris, from Taunton in Somerset, had fallen and was hit a few seconds later while she was on the ground.

The skier was never traced, although Miss Harris told her friends that when he apologised to her that he sounded like he had a Dutch or Belgian accent.

The impact shattered a section of her helmet, but Miss Harris was left with only a slight bump to the head and refused to go to a doctor to be checked over.

An inquest in Taunton on Monday heard the hotel in which she worked, Hotel Skilt, was next to a doctor’s surgery, but Miss Harris feared spiralling costs if she were to seek medical advice.

Medical bills for minor injuries could quickly exceed £600, her colleagues said, which was about what they were paid each month.

There was also no readily available guidance from their employer, Skibound, about what to do in the event of a head injury.

The court heard that on the evening of March 30, Miss Harris was able to babysit for a colleague, and only started to complain to the hotel’s head chef Seann Peters of a headache at around midnight.

Mr Peters said of Miss Harris immediately after the accident: “She was quite jovial and proud of her little bump, joking about the skier like ‘what a dick, I can’t believe he just skied away’.”

He added Miss Harris had barely eaten dinner and had declined to join a staff night out, but that this behaviour was pretty normal for her.

Mr Peters, who had the room next to hers in the hotel basement, found her drowsy on the sofa of her tiny room and lifted her on to a mattress on the floor.

Staff at the hotel feared she was concussed, but chose to monitor her over the course of the night rather than call an ambulance.

Kayleigh in intensive care before her death (Collect/PA Real Life/PA)
Kayleigh in intensive care before her death (Collect/PA Real Life/PA)

In a statement, Mr Peters described Miss Harris as a “Peter Pan character,” adding: “She was 100% going to hold on to her inner child, she loved anything pink or glittery.”

But he added that despite being full of energy, the victim “got tired easily and was one of the deepest sleepers I have ever met.

“Kayleigh loved her sleep and would sleep for days on end if she could,” Mr Peters said.

The court heard that various members of staff were not sure if the fact that Miss Harris was only partially responding to their attempts to wake her was due to head injury or being a deep sleeper.

Mr Peters said: “If you tried to wake her up she would just mumble and say she wanted to go back to sleep.”

An ambulance was called at around 8am on March 31 when Miss Harris stopped responding to the people checking on her, and by the time paramedics arrived she was in a deep coma.

She was not taken to hospital in Grenoble until almost midday because she suffered a cardiac arrest as she was being carried to the ambulance and had to be resuscitated on the pavement.

Miss Harris’ life support was switched off on the evening on April 1 to allow her family time to reach her, and they made the decision to donate her organs.

The court heard that, since Miss Harris’ death, Skibound has updated its head injury policy and it is now included in the information pack given to all of its seasonal staff.

Miss Harris’ mother Suzanne Harris expressed her frustration at the delay to seeking medical help for her daughter, and the lack of a clear head injury policy from Skibound.

She said: “I don’t want to blame anyone, not even the skier, it was an accident.

“They shouldn’t be made accountable or punished, but people should just be aware (of head injuries).”

Listing the cause of death as head injury, Coroner Samantha Marsh said Miss Harris’ colleagues had “misinterpreted” symptoms of head trauma as just her normal behaviour.

Ms Marsh said: “I am satisfied (Miss Harris) was encouraged to seek medical attention by friends and colleagues at the hotel and she didn’t take the opportunity to do so.

“I am satisfied that one of the reasons she may not have done so was the prohibitive cost.”

The coroner said she had no evidence to suggest that Miss Harris would have survived if medical help had been sought sooner, but said “she would at least have had a chance”.