Fall student dies after all-clear from hospital

A STUDENT at St Andrews University has died from a head injury two days after he was discharged from hospital in a tragedy that echoes the recent death of actress Natasha Richardson.

Alex Richardson, 21, crashed through a skylight of a DIY story in St Andrews town centre on Tuesday night after venturing on to the roof to dance during a student party.

He was treated by paramedics at the scene and rushed to hospital and released the following afternoon.

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But just six hours after leaving Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, friends found him collapsed and unconscious at home after a suspected brain haemorrhage.

Despite being rushed back to the hospital, his condition deteriorated rapidly and his life-support machine was turned off yesterday after friends and family travelled from his home town of Newmarket, Suffolk, to be by his bedside.

Medical experts said the case echoed that of movie star Natasha Richardson, who died recently after injuring her head skiing in Canada. She appeared to be fine and rejected help from medical staff at the ski resort in Quebec, but fell ill later and died.

Last week the New York medical examiner's office said the actress had died of epidural haematoma caused by a blunt impact to the head. Doctors said she might have survived had she received immediate treatment.

Mr Richardson is thought to have been at a party in a neighbouring flat before he climbed on to the roof of the Home Improvements Mica Homestore in the Fife town to dance. He crashed through the skylight and fell 12 feet on to the floor of the shop below.

A head-trauma specialist said Mr Richardson's death was likely to have been caused by bleeding on the brain, which can develop suddenly hours after the initial trauma.

His parents Chris and Annie and sister Emma were at his bedside yesterday.

Mr Richardson, managing director of Cheveley Park Stud, near Newmarket

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said: "Alex was a fun-loving character with a great appetite for life and he just loved St Andrews – he had the happiest time of his life here.

"He had so many friends here who have been such a wonderful support to us.

"It has been a great comfort to us that he was surrounded by his closest friends during this hugely difficult time and we are very grateful to them, to the university and to the university chaplain Jamie Walker for everything they have done.

"It is simply impossible to describe how deeply we feel his tragic loss and how much we will miss him. We all wish we could rewind time."

St Andrews principal Louise Richardson described the Spanish and French student as "bright and very popular, loved by his friends and family". Fife Police said there were "no suggestions of foul play".

The principal informed all St Andrews staff and students of the tragic news yesterday morning. In a statement, she said:

"We send our sincere condolences to Alex's parents, Chris and Annie, and his sister Emma at this enormously difficult time."

"His parents have asked the university to extend their thanks to all Alex's friends for their support and friendship."

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It is thought Alex may have accessed the roof via a window. One of the owners of the hardware shop in South Street said residential flats overlooked the roof at the rear of the premises.

The owner said: "We received a call from Fife Police on Tuesday night to say there had been an accident and were asked to open up the premises.

"He fell through a skylight at the rear of the shop and landed on the floor, a distance of between ten and 15 feet."

CID and scenes of crime officers were at the shop yesterday as inquiries continued. An accident and emergency doctor based in Glasgow said that if someone had fallen a distance of more than their height, as a general rule they would be given a skull X-ray to check for fractures.

A CT scan to look inside the brain would generally only be carried out if a patient had been unconscious, had suffered a drop in consciousness levels or had a skull fracture.

The doctor said a patient would be assessed to make sure they were alert and would only be sent home if they appeared to be well and had someone to go with them to watch in case any further symptoms developed.

The doctor said the student's case appeared to echo what had happened to actress Natasha Richardson, who had initially appeared fine after her head injury but subsequently died.

Headway, a charity set up to give help and support to people affected by brain injury, said: "There can be occasions where people seem to be OK and then suddenly become very ill."