Man choked on fillet steak in Dublin restaurant, inquest hears

Witness says father-of-two took one mouthful of food before getting into difficulty

A father-of-two died after he choked on a piece of steak at a seaside restaurant, the coroner’s court heard on Tuesday.

Gerry Cunneen (58) from Shenick Park in Skerries took just one mouthful before he got into difficulty, an inquest into his death was told .

Mr Cunneen was dining at the Salty Dog bar and bistro on Strand Street in Skerries on December 9th 2015. He ordered a fillet steak, witness Mandy Galvin said.

“We sat down for a meal, Gerry ordered a fillet steak. The steak was cooked very rare. He took one bite and I knew he was in difficulty,” she said. Mr Cunneen did not panic and was conscious but did not speak, Ms Galvin told Dublin Coroner’s Court.

“He kept nodding, indicating he was okay. He was conscious, he didn’t speak. He got one piece of steak up and put it on his plate, but he was still in difficulty,” Ms Galvin said.

Mr Cunneen collapsed and bar staff called 999. Ms Galvin ran outside for help and a taxi-driver and friend of the deceased came into the bar to help. Dublin Fire Brigade advanced paramedic Dermot Murray attended the scene. He said a passing doctor who came into help removed a large piece of meat from Mr Cunneen's airway.

Dr Phillip D’Arcy was out running when he saw the fire brigade outside the bar and ran inside to help. CPR was commenced before Mr Cunneen was taken to hospital.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell asked if staff had been able to help. "No they didn't know what to do," Ms Galvin replied. She said Mr Cunneen had suffered a similar choking incident at the same premises one month earlier but recovered after he received a "bang on the back" from a fellow diner.

Mr Cunneen's wife Frances said she received a call at about 7.15pm to alert her that he was unwell. She went to the Mater Hospital where her husband was admitted to the cardiology department before he was transferred to Beaumont Hospital.

Doctors conducted an MRI scan and found that Mr Cunneen’s brain would not recover and he died peacefully in hospital surrounded by family on December 11th 2015.

The cause of death was hypoxic brain injury secondary to an acute cardiac arrest following a choking episode. The autopsy revealed that Mr Cunneen suffered from heart disease but he was unaware. “I think the choking triggered a cardiac arrest,” Dr Farrell said . He returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

Mr Cunneen had drunk some brandy before sitting down to eat, the inquest heard. The coroner noted that consumption of alcohol can be a risk factor associated with choking.