A Galway coroner has called the tragic deaths of three people in the county, who all died from choking on food particles, “unprecedented”.
The three deaths, two of which occurred on the same day, were at the centre of an inquest that took place last week with west Galway coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin. The coroner said during the inquest that it was “unprecedented” that three people should lose their lives this way.
The first death, which occurred on March 24 of this year, was that of Dr Anneliese Lavery (68 ), the wife of well-known Northern Ireland barrister Michael Lavery, who represented a number of the Bloody Sunday families at the Saville Inquiry in Derry and London. The couple and their son, all of whom were on holiday from Broomhill Park in Belfast, had been enjoying lunch at Moran’s Oyster Cottage in Kilcolgan when Dr Lavery began to cough and choke on her lobster shortly after she began eating.
Dr Lavery was attended to by the restaurant manager Eileen Finn Graham, who is a trained nurse, as well as two other diners, a doctor and another nurse. Numerous attempts at the Heimlich Manoeuvre were unsuccessful, as were thumping on the doctor’s back and placing her over a chair. The 10cm lobster tail was eventually dislodged from Mrs Lavery’s throat.
Pathologist Margaret Sheehan concluded that the cause of death in the case was acute asphyxia due to obstruction of the airways by a food bolus.
Two other cases were found to have similar causes of death including that of Bernie Carroll (49 ), who died in her home in Ballybane, and that of Arthur Laffey (79 ), who was found lying on the floor of his home in Sandyvale Lawn on the Headford Road. Both victims died on June 21 of this year, Ms Carroll of an obstruction in her pharynx area, and Mr Laffey of an occlusion of his trachea. Dr Sheehan also noted that a previous fall resulting in a skull fracture and haemorrhage had also contributed to Mr Laffey’s death.
During the inquest Dr McLoughlin issued advice on the Heimlich Manoeuvre, an emergency technique used to prevent suffocation when a person’s airways are blocked, as well as expressing his sympathy to each of the victim’s families.