Ottawa

Rowan Stringer failed driving test days before death, inquest hears

An Ottawa rugby player who died after suffering multiple concussions had failed a driving test badly just days before she died, a coroner's inquest heard Wednesday.

Mother Kathleen Stringer tells inquest teens need to know more about concussions

The mother of Rowan Stringer talks about the rugby hit and concussions. 2:44

Ottawa teenager Rowan Stringer badly failed a driving test just days before she died showing several errors in judgment, the coroner's inquest into her rugby-related death heard on Wednesday.

Stringer, 17, died on May 12, 2013, after suffering multiple head injuries while playing high school rugby. The John McCrae Secondary School student had been tackled hard during a game four days before, hitting her head and neck on the ground.​

Stringer had stayed awake for a few moments after sitting up from the hit, then fell unconscious. She was taken to hospital where doctors tried unsuccessfully to relieve the pressure in her head.

Stringer would die from Second Impact Syndrome, where a pre-existing injury followed by another head blow can cause death.

A coroner's inquest into her death continued Wednesday with testimony from Stringer's friend Matt James, her mother Kathleen Stringer, as well as a driving test administrator and high school teacher.

Kathleen Stringer said she does not want children to be scared away from rugby due to her daughter's death, but instead she wants more education and awareness about head injuries.

She suggested concussion lessons should be mandatory as early as Grade 9.

Later on Wednesday, Walter Kuiper told the inquest he administered Rowan Stringer's road test after she had suffered serious head blows.

Kuiper said Stringer made several errors in judgment during the test, saying she drove too close to cars, was slow to react, passed too closely and drove in the middle of the road.

Kuiper said he had to intervene to stop the test.

Concussion awareness through inquest, Stringers hope

The inquest began on Tuesday at Ottawa City Hall with three witnesses, including former CFL quarterback Matt Dunigan and two of Stringer's friends, Michelle Hebert and Judy Larabie.

Hebert testified she received texts from Stringer brushing off any head injury concerns before her final game, including messages like "nothing would stop me unless I'm dead" and "what's some brain damage gonna hurt."

Rowan Stringer, seen here playing rugby, suffered two concussions in less than a week that led to Second Impact Syndrome. (Family photo)
Larabie fought back tears as she testified that Stringer took pride in her injuries, calling them "warrior wounds." She also recounted the rugby tackle that later took Stringer's life, saying she saw her friend lie on the ground, sit up and then fall back.

Kathleen Stringer and her husband Gordon said Tuesday they hope the inquest raises awareness about the issue of concussion reporting for young athletes. Kathleen also said athletes young and old need to take head injuries much more seriously, especially team captains.

Her daughter Rowan was the rugby team captain when she died.

The Stringers said they believe the inquest will help change that mentality and increase awareness about concussions for those between 12 and 24 years old.

The inquest into Stringer's death will examine the circumstances surrounding her death including areas of head injury recognition in high school field sports. The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.​​

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