Paramedics did not think a kickboxer was seriously injured when they assessed her after she was knocked out during a bout, an inquest heard today.
Saeideh Aletaha, 26, collapsed in a bathroom after she took a blow to the head during the Fast and Furious Fight Series contest in Southampton in November 2019 and died the following day.
Medic John Scott, who treated the amateur fighter, said he did not think it was a “severe” knockout.
He and his colleague Robert Milham assessed Ms Aletaha on the mat of the cage where she fought, but said she was not showing “any neurological abnormalities”.
Mr Scott, a private ambulance paramedic, sat with Ms Aletaha for around 10 minutes and returned ringside.
However, soon after the young fighter collapsed in the cubicle of a toilet and died the following day.
Her best friend, Kaja Kulczcka, today criticised the decision to leave Ms Aletaha on her own and tearfully told her inquest how she found her in the toilet the moment she fell critically ill.
Yesterday as the inquest opened, Ms Aletaha’s family raised concerns she had been mismatched with an opponent who was “much bigger and more muscled” than her.
The hearing was told that during the showcase martial arts event in Southampton, Hampshire, “top-heavy” 34-year-old personal trainer Janie Morgan knocked “slim” Ms Aletaha out with a right hook to the side of the jaw and she “folded”.
Today, Miss Kulczcka told Winchester Coroner’s Court: “A big punch landed to her face, it was brutal to see the way she fell on the floor.
“She slumped down, it was a heavy knock-down. Her knee gave way. There was a few heavy punches before that final punch and a few of them were to the face. She didn’t look as strong as before.”
After the fight, concerned Miss Kulczcka wanted to find her friend to check on her but was not allowed in the fighters’ area, however she was informed Ms Aletaha had gone to the toilet.
She burst into tears as she recalled finding Loughborough University graduate Ms Aletaha in pain.
She said: “She was in the cubicle and I asked if she needed any help and she said no so I waited.
“I heard her growling in pain, she was in a lot of pain. There was something wrong so I banged on the door and said ‘let me help you’ and that’s when she let me in.
“She lost consciousness, she laid herself down slowly on the floor but was fighting to control it.
“She was still trying to be brave. I just saw her eyes going back and I shouted out for help.”
People rushed to help, including on-site paramedics Mr Scott and Mr Milham, but Miss Kulczcka said they “waited forever” for an ambulance to arrive after calling 999.
She said: “I remember we were screaming two times for an ambulance, but it felt like it took forever.
“I can’t really remember how long it was but it felt like a long time.”
Miss Kulczcka also said: “I just wish after the fight she was not left alone, she was on her own there.
“I don’t know what happened. Her corner [boxing team] should be the people who know her well… If I could have gone in there and been with her I could have spotted if something was different about her.
“She had people asking if she’s OK… but she’s the type of person that does not complain. Maybe I could have spotted something was wrong.”
Miss Kulczcka said a doctor at Southampton General Hospital told her that even if Ms Aletaha had been brought in sooner, she would have died.
Giving evidence, paramedic Mr Scott said Ms Aletaha, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, did not seem to be seriously unwell when she was knocked out.
Mr Scott said she was conscious by the time he got to her in the cage, interacted well, spoke and moved well.
He explained: “She was not showing any neurological abnormalities. It was not a severe knockout.”
The paramedic added that Ms Aletaha did not want the stretcher and walked out back “of her own accord”.
There, Mr Scott sat with her and said her “pupils were fine” and after 10 minutes Ms Aletaha “wanted him to leave”.
Her coach Joe Ludlof also sat with Ms Aletaha – who he said was “dazed” – but left after “10 or 15 minutes”.
When Miss Kulczcka raised the alarm in the toilet, Mr Scott said Ms Aletaha showed signs she had a bleed on the brain.
When asked why he and Mr Milham did not transport Ms Aletaha to hospital in their ambulance, he said they needed to provide medical care to her together and that a South Central Ambulance crew would know the route better and be able to prepare for her arrival at hospital better.
Mr Scott said in hindsight he does not regret the decision and said the crew arrived promptly.
The man, who has worked as a paramedic since 1983, said: “In my experience, it’s very rare that there are any further complications from a knockout.
“There’s nothing that we could have done differently.”
Miss Kulczcka paid tribute to her friend, saying: “She was always really hard-working and focused on achieving her goals, but she was also very humble and would never do anything to hurt anyone.
“Everyone loved her, she was like sunshine walking into the room.
“She was very ambitious, would always treat everyone equally, and very kind.
“She was a little warrior, that’s what we’d call her.”
Ms Aletaha, who was born into a religious family in Iran, moved to the UK to study and was a product design engineer at the time of her death.
She had four years of experience in martial arts and ahead of the fight with Ms Morgan she had two wins and one loss in Thai boxing.
Her family, watching the inquest remotely from the UAE, said Ms Aletaha wanted to prove a “Muslim Lady” could compete in extreme sports even if she was wearing a hijab.