A FIT and healthy school girl who collapsed during a PE lesson died from an underlying heart condition that could have killed her at any time.

Leonie Nice, 12, felt dizzy and then collapsed after she was hit in the stomach with a rugby ball at Woodlands School, Basildon, on March 13 this year.

The youngster from Basildon was rushed to hospital but sadly died.

An inquest held yesterday, September 13 - exactly six months after her death - heard how being hit by the ball was “coincidental” as Leonie had a heart disease that could cause sudden death without warning.

Speaking at the inquest at Newbridge House, Chelmsford, yesterday, Essex Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said: “The condition can come out of the blue and can cause sudden death at any time.”

The inquest heard Leonie, from Basildon, had an underlying cardiac condition called arrthymogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, also known as right ventricular dysplasia.

Dr Nat Carey, a heart pathology expert, carried out a post mortem examination and thorough investigation into Leonie’s death with two other experts, Liz Hook, consultant paediatrician at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge and Mike Ashworth, based at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

They conducted microscopic tests that allowed them to examine Leonie’s heart in minute detail.

Dr Carey explained the condition is “characterised by the degeneration of the right ventricle” where some of the heart muscle is replaced by fibrous tissue and fat.
He said: “It can be a difficult diagnosis to make, but we are all confident that is the underlying disease process.”

He said the rugby ball had not caused any significant injury or internal trauma.

At the inquest it also emerged that Leonie’s PE teacher tried to resuscitate her before paramedics arrived and took her to hospital.

Dr Carey added: “It’s commendable that it was possible to at least attempt to save her life.”

Mrs Beasley-Murray ruled the cause of the youngster's death was natural causes.

She said: “She clearly was a much loved little girl with a bright future ahead of her.”
Leonie’s mum Kelley was at the inquest, along with her grandparents and staff from Woodlands, including headteacher Andy White.

All declined to comment after the inquest.