Woman fatally impaled by metal straw – coroner

British court warns of dangers of using metal straws after woman dies due to brain injury

A British woman was impaled by a metal straw after falling at her home, a coroner said in an inquest this week that warned about the dangers of metal straws. Such straws have surged in popularity as an EU-wide ban on single-use plastic straws looms.

The woman, Elena Struthers-Gardner (60), who had a disability, fell and sustained a traumatic brain injury in November when the 10-inch straw pierced her eye, according to the coroner’s report, which was released Monday.

The report, released in Bournemouth, called her death an accident, said that she fell at her home on November 22nd, and was taken to Southampton General Hospital, where she died the next day.

Struthers-Gardner’s wife, Mandy, said in a statement read at the inquest that her partner had been a former jockey and was prone to falls after a horse-riding injury when she was 21. She had scoliosis – a curvature of the spine – and had dealt with substance abuse issues, her wife said. Struthers-Gardner’s wife did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.


A ban on sigle-use plastic straws will go into effect next April in the UK, and across the EU in 2021.

Disability rights

The worldwide environmental push against single-use straws has encountered opposition from some carers and advocates for people with disabilities. They have voiced worries about the safety of rigid straws and the overall availability of straws for people who are unable to drink without them.

Kim Sauder, a blogger and doctoral student in disability studies, based in Toronto in Canada, said that Struthers-Gardner's death was a cautionary tale. "I don't know if the 'reusable straw', as the environmentally minded person conceives of them, are actually common enough yet to really know what dangers they pose," Ms Sauder said.

“A straw ban is nothing but environmental theater,” Ms Sauder tweeted last year. “The greatest accomplishment of the straw ban is genuinely the bigotry it has emboldened against disabled people.”

Many people with disabilities rely on straws to drink, Ms Sauder said, but could have difficulties finding them in where they have already banned or restricted single-use straws, such as US state California, or city Seattle.

Starbucks plans to eliminate its use of plastic straws at 28,000 of its locations around the world in 2020. In 2016, the coffee chain recalled stainless-steel straws sold at its shops because they posed an injury risk.

At the time, Starbucks said it had received reports of three children in the US and one in Canada who had been lacerated by the straws, which were sold with reusable beverage containers. – New York Times