Man choked and collapsed while out to dinner with family

Food came up from man’s stomach blocking his airway, coroner said

Coroner Dr Crona Gallagher described the incident as ‘not the normal choking incident where the food goes against a person and they cough and splutter’. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Coroner Dr Crona Gallagher described the incident as ‘not the normal choking incident where the food goes against a person and they cough and splutter’. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A 79-year-old man was out to dinner with his family when he choked and died suddenly, an inquest heard.

John Loftus of Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9 made no gesture or facial expression to indicate he was in difficulty, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

He was seated at the head of a table with his wife, son and grandchildren at the White House bar and restaurant in Baldoyle, Dublin 13 when he collapsed suddenly on February 19th, 2017.

His wife Connie Loftus said he’d been in good form all day and always enjoyed his food.

“I saw my husband stand up at the other end of the table and then sit down again for no reason. He didn’t show any signs of distress. Then he just collapsed,” Mrs Loftus said.

“He made no gestures, his colour didn’t change, he just sat down and passed away peacefully.”

Her husband had a stroke 17 years previously and his health had deteriorated in the six months prior to his death, the court heard.

Family and others at the restaurant rushed to his aid when he collapsed. Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was begun and an ambulance called.He was pronounced dead at Beaumont Hospital.

An autopsy conducted by Dr Maeve Brennan revealed a large particle of food measuring 4cm lodged in the man’s upper airway. There were more particles of food found in the oesophagus, lower in the windpipe and in the lungs. The autopsy also revealed Mr Loftus had 80 per cent narrowing of the coronary arteries.

Deputy Coroner Dr Crona Gallagher said the cardiac condition had been a ‘precipitating factor’ in the man’s death, given the evidence from his wife.

“The blockage to his airway is still the primary cause of death but he has an abnormal finding in his heart,” Dr Gallagher said.

“The number one cause of death is food bolus obstruction but a sudden cardiac arrhythmia is a significant contributor. I think something caused this, I think the food came up from his stomach after he’d finished eating.

“It’s a choking incident but it’s not the normal choking incident where the food goes against a person and they cough and splutter. This was secondary to another event,” the coroner said.

Dr Gallagher returned a narrative verdict and extended her sympathies to the family.

“I’m sure it came as a terrible shock. This was a very sudden and unexpected death,” the coroner said.