Annie Alaku-Papigatuk, 12, was hit in the head by a puck that deflected into the stands at an arena here in Salluit, Quebec’s second-most northern community. (Marika Wheeler/CBC) A Quebec coroner has called on the province to look into installing protective netting around the ice at all arenas, in response to the death of a 12-year-old girl who was struck by an errant hockey puck last year.
Coroner Steeve Poisson said if a net had been up at the local arena in Salluit, Que., Annie Alaku-Papigatuk’s death "very likely would have been avoided."
Alaku-Papigatuk was watching a hockey game in the village in Quebec’s Inuit territory of Nunavik, on April 1, 2017, when she was hit by a puck that was deflected into the stands.
She was sitting in the second row, close to centre ice — an area without any protective netting above the glass — when the puck struck her right eyebrow.
Alaku-Papigatuk started to cry but was able to walk and said she was OK.
An adult who was with her put some snow into a bag and applied it to her head, Poisson said.
She was taken home and later complained that she had a headache and threw up. The next morning, Alaku-Papigatuk’s father realized she wasn’t breathing, so he drove her to the community health clinic in Salluit.
Alaku-Papigatuk died around 11:05 a.m. that day.
The blow caused an epidural hematoma, or bleeding between the skull and outer layer covering the brain, Poisson said.
"It was an accidental death," the coroner concluded. Netting now up in Salluit arena
Stéphane Paquet, the co-ordinator of the Nunavik Hockey School, formerly known as the Northern Youth Hockey Development Program, runs a program in Salluit in the summer.
He was at the arena the day Alaku-Papigatuk was hit.
"From where I was, I saw the puck just drop in the crowd, and I saw a little girl crying. There were people around taking care of her, so the game [kept] going," Paquet told CBC News.
"The morning after that, I heard about the tragedy. I was totally shocked." Just under 1,100 people live in Salluit, in Quebec’s Inuit territory of Nunavik, according to Canada’s 2016 census. (Google) Paquet, who has been supporting hockey programs in northern Quebec communities for about a decade, said netting has been put up at the arena in Salluit since the incident.
"It’s totally different because now there’s nets until the ceiling. Before it was regular [glass]," he said.
In his report, Poisson recommended that Quebec’s Ministry of Education, Sports and Leisure and AQAIRS, a non-profit that works to maintain arenas and other sports facilities in the province, look into installing netting in all Quebec arenas. With files from CBC’s Catou MacKinnon
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