Shock as Hughes dies from head injuries
SYDNEY - Agence France-Presse
In this Sept. 19, 2011 file photo Australia's batsman Phillip Hughes celebrates after scoring a century during the fourth days' play of the third cricket test match between Australia and Sri Lanka in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Hughes died in a Sydney hospital on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014, two days after being struck in the head by a cricket ball during a domestic first-class match. AP PhotoAustralian batsman Phillip Hughes died Nov. 27 from a rare head injury after a sickening on-field blow in one of the highest-profile sporting fatalities since the death of Formula One great Ayrton Senna.
Hughes, who was due to celebrate his 26th birthday this weekend, never regained consciousness after being hit at the base of the skull by a rising ball while batting for South Australia against New South Wales at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday.
"It is my sad duty to inform you that a short time ago Phillip Hughes passed away," Australian team doctor Peter Brukner said, adding later that he died from an injury to the neck that caused haemorrhage in the brain.
"He never regained consciousness following his injury on Tuesday. He was not in pain before he passed and was surrounded by his family and close friends."
Hughes, who played 26 Tests, crumpled to the ground unconscious after the blow despite wearing a helmet. He underwent emergency surgery and had been in an induced coma since.
"Phillip took the blow at the side of the neck and as a result of that blow his vertebral artery, one of the main arteries leading to the brain, was compressed by the ball," explained Brukner. "That caused the artery to split and for bleeding to go up into the brain, and he had a massive bleed into his brain.
"The condition is incredibly rare," he added, with only 100 cases ever reported and only one known incident as a result of a cricket ball.
His tragic death was one of the highest-profile sporting casualties since Senna was killed in an accident while leading the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.
Senna's demise, which prompted a leap in safety standards in Formula One, remains one of sport's most haunting deaths in competition along with Cameroonian footballer Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed on the pitch and died during the 2003 Confederations Cup in France.
Test stars Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Steve Smith were among a stream of personalities from the world of cricket who visited Hughes' bedside, hoping for the best, with emotions running high.
An inconsolable Australia captain Michael Clarke was an almost constant presence at his close friend's side at St Vincent's Hospital.
"We're devastated by the loss of our much loved son and brother, Phillip," his family said in a statement read out by a devastated Clarke.
"It has been a very difficult few days. We appreciate all the support we have received from family, friends, players, Cricket Australia and the general public."
News of his death broke just before long-time teammate Warner and his wife left the hospital in tears. Dozens more players were hugging and crying into each other's shoulders as they walked out minutes later.
"RIP you little champ, we are all going to miss you ! Love, prayers to all the Hughes family xxxx," tweeted national coach Darren Lehmann, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was a tragedy.
"Phillip Hughes was a young man living out his dreams. His death is a very sad day for cricket and a heartbreaking day for his family," Abbott said.
"What happened has touched millions of Australians."
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland said Hughes had been taken away too soon.
"It's an understatement to say that we are completely devastated. Our grief runs deep and the impact of Phillip's loss is enormous," he said in paying tribute to a "humble, understated and hard-working" man.
Hughes made his Test debut in South Africa in 2009 where he made 75 in the second innings at Johannesburg. The left-hander followed up in the second Test at Durban with centuries in both innings, amassing some 275 runs at the crease.
The runs dried up and despite playing 26 Tests he never secured a regular place in the national team, partly due to his perceived weakness against the short, rising ball.
But with doubts over the fitness of Clarke for the first Test against India next week in Brisbane, he was seen as a potential replacement.
That Test is now in doubt with many of those due to take part close friends of Hughes who will struggle to focus.