14/09/2012 13:07 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Coroner Concludes Schoolgirl Hit By Rugby Ball During PE Lesson Died Of Natural Causes

'Healthy' schoolgirl hit in the chest by a rugby ball died of natural causes East News

A 'healthy' 12-year-old schoolgirl collapsed and died after being hit by a rugby ball during a PE lesson.

However, the impact of the ball was not the cause of Leonie Nice's death, a coroner decided.

In fact, she died from a natural cause – an inherited condition called 'sudden heart rhythm disturbance' brought on by arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.

Pathologist Dr Nat Carey told the inquest in Chelmsford, Essex: "I don't think the strike from the ball should be viewed as a precipitating factor."

He said Leonie suffered no external trauma and only had minor bruising to her left eyebrow associated with her sudden collapse.

He described the Year Seven pupil as a 'healthy little girl' who showed no sign of an infection which could have brought on her sudden collapse.

Leonie's inherited muscle disorder is characterised by the degeneration of the heart's right ventricle where muscle is replaced by fat and scar tissue.

Dr Carey said: "People with this condition are vulnerable to sudden death and that can happen at any time."

Leonie's family – including her mother Kelley Nice, her mother's partner Paul Elam and Leonie's grandparents – attended the 10-minute hearing and were addressed by Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray who said: "Leonie was clearly a much-loved little girl with a bright future ahead of her. I hope you will be able to treasure the bright and happy memories you have of her."

Grieving classmates left tributes on social networking sites when Leonie died on March 13 this year.

Hundreds of mourners attended her funeral. A family message read at the service said Leonie was 'the friendliest person you could ever meet.

It continued: "She loved life and her two favourite loves were music and drama. She loved practising her singing in the shed, which was her secret place.

"She was bubbly and outspoken, funny and so patient. She was just simply perfect."

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