Rowan Stringer's father 'disturbed' and 'confused' by coach testimony

The father of Ottawa teenager Rowan Stringer says he's "disturbed" he never knew rugby coach Leah Dobbin met with his daughter before her final match, he told a coroner's inquest.

Rowan Stringer, 17, died after suffering 3 concussions in less than a week

Gordon Stringer, right, was spotted throwing his hands in the air and sighing during testimony from rugby coach Leah Dobbin, who spoke with Rowan Stringer before her final game. (CBC)

Gordon Stringer is "disturbed" nobody told him about a meeting between his daughter Rowan and one of her rugby coaches before Rowan suffered a fatal head blow in 2013, the coroner's inquest heard on Tuesday.

Leah Dobbin testified on the inquest's sixth day about her discussion with Rowan Stringer that focused on general wellness.

The conversation also featured questions from a concussion checklist supplied by the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, including whether Stringer had a headache, dizziness or nausea.

Dobbin told the inquest she "didn't know a lot about concussions" when she spoke to Stringer before the high school rugby match on May 8, 2013. She also said she didn't take notes about the discussion.

Rowan Stringer, 17, was thrown down and her head and neck struck the ground, causing a third concussion in less than a week. (Family photo)
"My memory is foggy because that day was quite traumatic," Dobbin testified.

Stringer, 17, died after suffering a third concussion in less than a week when her head and neck struck the ground.

Stringer died in hospital four days later from Second Impact Syndrome, where a pre-existing injury followed by another head blow can cause death.

On Tuesday, Dobbin did recount some of Rowan Stringer's comments before the final game.

"Rowan said, 'No I'm just tired, I'm okay to play," Dobbin told the inquest, adding the Grade 12 student blamed a busy week for her fatigue.

Later, Gordon Stringer exercised his right to question Dobbin, telling her that he and his wife Kathleen never knew she talked to their daughter before the game and he was "confused" by her inability to remember the day's events. 

Dobbin, who is also a teacher at John McCrae Secondary School, had tears in her eyes as Stringer delivered pointed questions and she fought to hold back tears as coroner's counsel Mark Moors questioned her earlier Tuesday.

'She's being attacked,' lawyer says

She testified she could not remember exactly what she learned during a rugby safety course, but Moors pushed the envelope, which drew the ire of the school board's lawyer, Roger Mills.

Rowan Stringer died after she was tackled and hit the ground hard during a rugby game on May 8, 2013. (Facebook)
Mills interjected, which is rare at a coroner's inquest, and accused Moors of "beating up" on Dobbin.

"He keeps drilling into her. I submit she's being attacked," Mills told coroner Louise McNaughton-Filion.

Moors argued he was just testing her ability to recall events for the jury's sake, but the coroner urged him to avoid repetition in his questions.

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


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?