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Woman dies after being impaled by metal straw

Rigid drinking aids 'should not be used with lid that holds them in place', warns coroner

Jon Sharman
Tuesday 09 July 2019 12:06 BST
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Woman dies after being impaled by metal straw

A woman was killed when she fell onto a metal drinking straw that pierced her eye socket and entered her brain, an inquest heard.

Elena Struthers-Gardner, 60, was carrying a mason-jar style drinking glass with a screw-top lid when she collapsed at her home in Poole, Dorset, in November last year.

The 10 inch metal straw – held in place by the lid – entered her left eye and caused a fatal brain injury. The former jockey had had mobility problems since a riding accident when she was 21, and was prone to collapsing due to pain caused by spinal injuries.

Ms Struthers-Gardner’s wife, Mandy, told the inquest in a statement: ”I did not hear her fall. ”I went to the kitchen door and could see Lena lying on her front at the doorway between the den and the kitchen.

“She was making unusual gurgling sounds. Her glass cup was lying on the floor still intact and the straw was still in the jar. I noticed the straw was sticking into her head. I called 999 and requested an ambulance.”

She added: “While I was on the phone, Lena appeared to have stopped breathing. The lady on the phone asked me to turn her over.

“I slid the glass off the straw and turned her over. I could see the straw had gone through her left eye.”

Doctors at Southampton General Hospital were unable to help Ms Struthers-Gardner and her life support was switched off the following day.

Medical workers “had never seen an injury like that”, said Detective Inspector Wayne Seymour of Dorset Police.

While Ms Struthers-Gardner had developed an alcohol dependency in the months leading up to her death, a doctor found none in her system during a post-mortem examination and said intoxication was not a factor in her fall.

Speaking after the inquest, Mandy Struthers-Gardner said: “I miss her very much, she was taken far too early. I hope this never happens to anyone else.”

The death prompted coroner Brendan Allen to warn of the dangers of using metal straws.

After recording a conclusion of accidental death, he said: ”There is no give in them at all. If someone does fall on one and it’s pointed in the wrong direction, serious injury can occur.

“It seems to me these metal straws should not be used with any form of lid that holds them in place. It seems the main problem here is if the lid hadn’t been in place the straw would have moved away.”

Additional reporting by BNPS

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