Thursday 14 December 2017

Teach food staff how to save people from choking – coroner

Man performing the Heimlich Manoeuvre on a woman
Man performing the Heimlich Manoeuvre on a woman

Brian McDonald

A CORONER has urged that everyone serving food to the public should be trained in the Heimlich Manoeuvre, after hearing how a car park attendant choked to death on his pub lunch.

Joseph Folan (64) had gone to the Westside Tavern in Galway city at 2.45pm on February 11 last and sat at the bar. He ordered beef stew and a pint of Bulmers.

Bar manager Eileen Grealish served him his food and recalled seeing Mr Folan eating at the bar as a friend of his came into the Westside Tavern

When she looked back, Mr Folan was no longer sitting at the bar. She found him lying on a couch. When she went to him, she realised immediately that he needed medical attention and she rang for an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived within 12 minutes and brought him to University College Hospital Galway. But despite efforts to resuscitate him, Mr Folan was pronounced dead.

Pathologist Dr Caroline Brodie told the inquest in Galway that while performing an autopsy she discovered that something had damaged Mr Folan’s windpipe. A large piece of food was removed from his airway.

The cause of death was asphyxia due to obstruction of the airway, Dr Brodie said.

Replying to a question from a family member, Dr Brodie said that Mr Folan would not have been in any pain and that death would have been instant.

West Galway Coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin noted that Mr Folan did not have any teeth and would not have been able to chew his food.

He said that it would have been too late for emergency intervention by the time Mr Folan arrived at the hospital.


“It would be an appropriate recommendation that anybody serving food to the public should be instructed in the use of the Heimlich Manoeuvre in order to dislodge food without delay.”

The manoeuvre is an emergency technique used to prevent a person choking when the airway becomes blocked by a piece of food or other object.

The coroner added: “Over the years a number of people have died while eating in similar circumstances.”

He returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.

Online Editors

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