Man accidentally kills friend by pushing him off 12ft driving range bay

Conner Groom
Conner Groom died in January 2022, five weeks after the incident at the driving range - BPM Media

A bricklayer died from catastrophic spinal injuries after his friend pushed him from a 12ft-high golf driving range bay in a drunken prank.

Conner Groom fell from a booth at Topgolf in Chigwell, Essex, during a work Christmas party on Dec 21 2021.

The 22-year-old was pushed by a close friend but his grieving relatives told police they did not want the man to be prosecuted over the death.

The friend was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm without intent following the incident, but the charges were later dropped.

Essex Coroner’s Court heard Mr Groom went head-first over the edge of the safety net below the bays of the first floor of the driving range and died five weeks later from a spinal injury.

The inquest heard Mr Groom and his friends had been drinking throughout the evening before they arrived at Topgolf.

After they began their session, the friends started jokingly pushing each other on to the safety nets, the inquest heard.

The group were warned repeatedly by staff to stop, and they apologised and said they “wouldn’t do it again”.

However, a short while later Mr Groom’s friend ran up and pushed him, but instead of falling on to the net like his friends, he went over the edge and fell head-first to the ground.

‘Plainly seen as a joke’

Detective Inspector Lydia George, from Essex Police, told the inquest how officers had taken statements from multiple people at the scene and reviewed CCTV footage of the incident.

She said: “All of the [footage] shows them in good spirits and no signs of animosity.

“A number of times it shows the friends trying to push each other into the safety netting. It was plainly seen as a joke.”

The man who ended up pushing Mr Groom to his death was not involved in the previous pushing incidents, the detective said.

An aerial view of Topgolf in Chigwell, Essex
An aerial view of Topgolf in Chigwell. Epping Forest Council said it was satisfied with changes made by its management following the tragedy - A.P.S. (UK) / Alamy Stock Photo

Det Insp George said that Essex Police consulted with the Crown Prosecution Service and Mr Groom’s family about whether to take further action against his friend.

The court heard the police eventually chose not to pursue any charges as the “evidential test was not met” and that the intention was for Mr Groom to land on the safety netting.

She added: “The parents of Conner Groom didn’t support a prosecution of [his friend].

“They believed that Conner would not have wanted to support any action over him as they are good friends.”

Det Insp George said the police concluded it was a “prank that resulted in a tragic accident”.

‘Terrible tragedy’

Graham Jarvis, a senior environmental health officer for Epping Forest Council, conducted a review of Topgolf and its safety procedures following Mr Groom’s death.

He told the court that the venue had made changes to its policies following the incident, including updating its signage and introducing a more “zero tolerance” approach to those who pushed people on to the nets.

Mr Jarvis added that the council had been satisfied with all the changes made and that no enforcement action had been taken against the venue.

Coroner Lincoln Brookes said he was satisfied that it had been the intention of Mr Groom’s friend for him to have landed on the safety net.

Mr Brookes said: “I entirely accept that due to high spirits there was nothing malicious whatsoever.”

He said the case was a “terrible tragedy” and recorded a conclusion of misadventure.