Evidence of fights for table
THE critical moments leading up to Jai Morcom’s collapse were revealed in a dramatic second day of evidence at the coronial inquest into the schoolboy’s death in 2009.
Seven key witnesses were called, including Mullumbimby High School teachers, staff, a parent and principal Ian Graham.
The only witness so far to have seen Jai near the fight, casual music teacher Camilla Warner, was repeatedly questioned by counsel assisting the coroner, Michael Wigney, over inconsistencies between her early and later statements.
In only her fourth day as a qualified teacher, Ms Warner told the court of seeing a boy of Jai’s description on the ground being punched by three or four boys, with another three or four boys trying to pull them off.
This account was included in a signed statement at Byron Bay police station almost a year after the incident, but contrary to her initial hand-written statement the day of the fight where she recounted only one boy punching, and could not recognise the boy on the ground.
She said the trauma had initially ‘scrambled her memories’ and at the time of her first statement she hadn’t expected to be appearing at an inquest.
Mr Wigney put to her that her memories had changed after seeing the ‘huge media coverage’ and talking to Jai’s father, Steve Drummond.
She refuted this, claiming she pieced it together in her own mind in the first month and hadn’t watched the media coverage as it made her feel sick.
After yelling to the boys to break up the fight, Ms Warner said they stopped fighting and split into two groups, just before she noticed Jai shuffle out of the crowd with his head tilted and eyes drooping.
Mr Wigney did not dispute this part of her testimony.
Ms Warner said Jai then walked to a wall where he leaned against it before slumping down.
When asked why she hadn’t gone to the police sooner, she said she felt sick thinking about it and thought the police would chase her up.
Counsel representing the police force, Brent Haverfield, put it to her that police had told her to contact them if she had any further information, but she couldn’t remember.
Evidence was heard earlier from teachers who did not see Jai in any fighting, but were involved in breaking up a series of recess skirmishes over a disputed lunch table.
The fight that Jai was allegedly involved in broke out after those incidents and followed on from the same dispute.
Ms Warner said she then ran to the school office for help, getting assistance from administration manager Alexandra McAuley, who had first-aid training, and P&C secretary Jennifer Watson, a clinical nurse specialist with 30 years’ experience.
Ms Watson said it appeared Jai had suffered a seizure and his other injuries appeared ‘not significant’.
They commenced resuscitation before paramedics arrived less than five minutes later.
Jai was taken to Byron Bay Hospital before being transferred to Gold Coast Hospital, where he died the next day.
Principal Ian Graham was last to appear, outlining the school’s adherence to departmental procedures throughout the incident.
He altered one fact in his original statement where he said there was outdoor seating for 1450 students.
There was actually only seating for 700 students, but in a school of 800 students, he said that was more than adequate.