Shock over Hilton pupil’s death

2013-08-17 00:00

CHRIS Loxton, the Hilton College pupil who died inthe early hours of yesterday while on a school outing in the Drakensberg , had no previous medical history of epilepsy or seizures, said his father, Stuart Loxton.

The news of the Grade 9 pupil’s death came days after The Witness reported on the dramatic rescue of fellow pupil Xilombe Tlakula, after a rock dislodged on the mountain and severely injured his arm.

As reported yesterday, Xilombe (14) was admitted to the Chief Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban, where his arm was amputated. His family could not be reached for comment.

Speaking to The Witness, Loxton said Chris was a passionate school boy who was keen to be with his schoolmates.

“He absolutely loved the Hilton environment. He was a full-time boarder and was very much part of the ethos there. He loved the school.”

Chris had been an enthusiastic part of the choral group that returned recently from a successful tour of Dubai and Beijing.

“He was also a solid member of the Under-15B rugger team and had recently taken up mountain biking. He was also awarded the most improved rower award.

“Ernie Steenkamp, the rowing coach, said he had given it to him because of the size of his smile when he was rowing. He was a very, very proud Hilton boy.”

Loxton said the family was finding it “very, very tough” having to deal with Chris’s sudden death.

“If someone dies after an accident you know they died because of the accident. For us it’s a mystery.

“Our kid was on the mountain and the support staff did what they could. We have had unbelievable support from the headmaster, teachers and parents, but the shock is ours.”

Chris displayed no signs of ill-health, said Loxton.

“We were driving down yesterday [Thursday] when we were called and told he had had a mild seizure.”

He said a 4 x 4 ambulance was sent to fetch him from where the school party was located in Lesotho and was to take him to MediClinic for further medical investigation to ascertain what was wrong.

But Chris had additional seizures in the ambulance and went into cardiac arrest and died.

“They told us Chris didn’t make it. We are not going to look for the details and the what, why and who. We have not yet spoken to the staff.”

Paramedic Brett Deavin, one of two paramedics from Underberg working for Berg Response, responded to the call for help. They had to drive four hours to access the remote wilderness area in the Lesotho mountains.

Deavin told Weekend Witness they received the emergency call-out at 4 pm and only managed to get to Loxton at 8 pm after traversing the rough roads and crossing through the Lesotho border.

“When we reached him he was having a fit and it was clear that he had been suffering from fits throughout the day.

“His condition was critical and we did our best to stabilise him and we headed back toward Underberg, intending to take him to Pietermaritzburg to ICU.”

But before the paramedics could get the teen out of Lesotho to a hospital, Chris died.

“When we reached Matatiele we stopped to try and revive him but there was nothing we could do. It is a tragedy. It affects us as it is always terrible to lose someone so young. We had to inform his parents and that was a tough thing to do.”

Hilton College marketing manager Paul Guthrie said: “We as a school are mobilising to support the Loxton family who are grieving and to offer counselling and support to the friends, boarding mates and classmates.

“The pupils and staff have been deeply affected by both of these incidents and we will support each other and seek spiritual counselling.”

In his reaction, Hilton College principal Peter Ducasse said: “We are all absolutely devastated at his passing. The entire Hilton College Family will, however, stand together to pray for, comfort and support his family and friends.”

Chris is survived by his father, mother Debbie — who serves on the Hilton College board of governors — and his older brother, Nicholas, who is also a pupil at the school.

The pupils are encouraged to appreciate nature and learn to bond as a team and challenge themselves physically.

The Outward Bound experience happens in different locations annually.

Parents are required to sign indemnity forms when their children go on any educational outing and most parents do this without a thought.

But when tragedy strikes many parents wonder if they should sign away their rights so willingly.

The indemnity form is an agreement in which you waive your right to take legal action in the event of harm caused by the wrongdoing of the other party.

Legal advisor Johan Roux of Legal Ease in Durban said: “The enforceability of such an agreement is a grey area.

“South African courts, however interpret these agreements narrowly and the enforceability of each contact is usually determined on the facts and circumstances of each case. It is very difficult to prove negligence in a tragedy. The facts have to be cut and dried.

It is possible to cross out the indemnity clause, and initial it and only sign the terms of the rest of the document. Parents can also add the words, “the rights of the signatory are reserved herein” under your signature which will have the same effect.

Roux advised parents to read forms very carefully before signing.

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