Netball court death sparks call for defibrillators

Tragedy at Berkeley netball game

Illawarra District Netball Association will consider buying defibrillators for its Berkeley and Fairy Meadow courts following the death of 27-year-old player Beth Leske.

Ms Leske, a Fairy Meadow player, collapsed at half-time on Saturday during the last round of the netball season. She later died at Wollongong Hospital.

Beth Leske

Beth Leske

IDNA president Dianne Elvy said she would strongly recommend to the committee that it purchase the defibrillators which cost around $2500 each.

"I think it will come to a point when all sporting grounds will need one," Ms Elvy said.

Paramedic Mark McCarthy, whose company Wollongong First Aid, sells defibrillators, said competition in the market had seen the price of defibrillators almost halve in the past six months.

Mr McCarthy launched a campaign last year to make Wollongong a HeartSafe Community.

There are now defibrillators in Wollongong City Council's two leisure centres, at patrolled beaches and swimming pools. Recently all NSW police local area commands have been issued with them.

"Every minute counts in cardiac arrests," said Mr McCarthy. "The longer circulation to the brain and the body is maintained there's a better chance of survival. This is done first through CPR and then through the use of defibrillators. It can literally make the difference between life and death. However, there is no guarantee. Even having trained medical people on site may not be enough to save a life. But what defibrillators do is give patients the best chance of survival. It's my view they should be installed in all public places."

It is unknown whether Ms Leske had a pre-existing medical condition.

Ms Leske, who has a young son, was due to be married in a few weeks.

She is the daughter of former Illawarra Hawks team manager David Leske who died from cancer in 2001.

Both netball teams and the two umpires involved on the day have been offered support and counselling through IDNA.

Ms Elvy said Illawarra netball members were devastated about what happened.

"We are all shocked. It's an incredibly sad tragedy and we really feel for her family."

On the Mercury online site some players expressed their disgust that Illawarra netball had allowed teams to continue with the later games.

But Ms Elvy said that a decision had been made to open the courts and leave it up to each team to decide whether to play or to forfeit their game without penalty.

"We reacted in a way we thought was right at the time," she said. "It was a difficult decision to make in such a short time and that's why we decided to give each team the option to play or not to play."

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