A SIX-YEAR-OLD girl choked to death on a piece of boiled egg she was eating as part of her school lunch, an inquest heard yesterday (Friday, August 29).
Chantelle Firth collapsed in the dinner hall when she started struggling for breath and despite the best efforts of school staff and paramedics they were unable to dislodge the blockage.
The youngster, who had a developmental condition that resulted in her having educational special needs, was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Teesside Coroners' Court heard how Chantelle, of Pendle Crescent, Billingham, was a pupil at the town's Pentland Primary School at the time of her death in March 2012.
Pathologist Jennifer Bolton said that everything that could be done to remove the inch-long piece of egg had been carried out but the shape of the piece resulted in it being virtually impossible to dislodge.
She said: "When incidents like this deprive children of oxygen to their brains, it doesn't take a long time for the damage to be done. Once she got to hospital, unfortunately, the damage had already been done."
A police investigation found no fault whatsoever with the school's handling of the incident and the court heard that staff had done everything they possibly could to try and save her.
Hartlepool Senior Coroner Malcolm Donnelly, who is currently undertaking the Assistant Coroner role on Teesside, recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Her grandmother and legal guardian, Denice Firth attended the hearing at Teesside Magistrates Court.
Headteacher Hazel Ducker, speaking after the inquest, said: "This was a tragic incident and our thoughts are with Chantelle's parents, family and friends at this incredibly sad and difficult time. Chantelle was a very popular girl and the loss of such a lovely, gentle and kind child continues to be felt throughout our whole school community.
"The staff and children have given a lot of thought to ways in which we can remember Chantelle and we have installed a beautiful wooden playhouse with the words 'Chantelle's House' carved into it in her memory.
"It is very popular with the children and will ensure that Chantelle will be remembered as the wonderful little girl she was."