British rugby player dies and second taken ill during Sri Lanka tour

A British amateur rugby player has died and a second is critically ill after suffering breathing problems during a tour of Sri Lanka.

Thomas Howard, 25, was taken to hospital in the city of Colombo on Sunday and died shortly afterwards, according to Durham City RFC.

Tom Baty, 26, remains in hospital where he is being treated.

They were on tour with the Clems Pirates team, which is described as a veterans’ outfit that raises money for charity based at Durham City RFC.

Richard Wilkinson, club president, extended his sympathy to the family of Howard and best wishes to Baty for his recovery.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you all,” he said in a statement.

"Both players and Clems Pirates hold a special place in our rugby family, and our continued support is unconditional.”

He said the club would stay in touch with officials in Sri Lanka and offered his thanks for messages of sympathy and support.

The players arrived in Sri Lanka on Wednesday and kicked off their tour with a game against the Ceylonese Rugby and Football Club in the commercial capital Colombo.

A police spokesman told the BBC that some of the players went to a nightclub before returning to the team hotel in the early hours of Sunday. They reported respiratory problems at about 10am.

"Both men had returned from a nightclub and had complained of breathing difficulties, and they were admitted to the hospital, one died and another is in very critical condition,” he said, adding that a post-mortem examination would be conducted.

The club said the breathing problems were "non rugby related".

Sri Lanka

Local figures expressed sympathy for everyone involved.

David Boyes, Durham County Councillor, said Durham City RFC was a well-organised, well-equipped organisation that oversaw a number of teams.

"I really feel for the families, being that far away and knowing that a family member has died must be terrible," he said.

Richard Ormerod, another councillor, said it was sad news.

"My thoughts are with the families and friends and team-mates," he said.

Tamara Taylor, an England rugby player, was among those who to social media to offer sympathy.

"Unbelievably tragic news,” she tweeted. “Sending love to all at Clems Pirates and DurhamCityRFC #RugbyFamily.”

The Foreign Office confirmed it was dealing with the incident: "Our staff are supporting the family of a British man following his death in Sri Lanka, and are in contact with the Sri Lankan hospital services."

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