Accident verdict on boy, 14, who choked on memory stick cover

A SCHOOLBOY died in a tragic accident by choking on the cover of a memory stick.

Alasdair Blucke, 14, was working on his computer at home on Saturday, December 4, last year when his brother Christopher heard he was coughing, “in some difficulty”, and went to see what was wrong.

Alasdair could only say “I can’t breathe” and his brother realised he was choking, told him to be sick, and tried to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre – squeezing the chest cavity to force an obstruction out – before calling an ambulance.

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Despite the efforts of Christopher’s and paramedics Alasdair, a pupil at Hymers College in Hull, could not be revived and was pronounced dead in hospital nearly 90 minutes later.

During a postmortem examination, which revealed he died from choking, the black top of a computer memory stick, about 1.5cm wide, was found lodged in his windpipe.

Dr Alastair MacDonald, a pathologist who carried out the postmortem, told an inquest into Alasdair’s death that the chances of the Heimlich Manoeuvre being successful were “remote”, and there would have been no time to perform surgical interventions.

A 4x4 rapid response vehicle was despatched at 11.48am and arrived at the scene nine minutes later, although because of heavy snow and ice it had difficulty negotiating the country lane leading to the house in Spark Mill Lane, Beverley.

Alasdair’s father Charles was returning from Brough railway station with his other son Stuart, and was dropped off at the top of the lane just as the emergency response vehicle arrived.

An ambulance arrived at the top of the lane at 12.03pm, but its crew decided to wait on the main road in case it got stuck and blocked the exit.

David Harrison, an experienced paramedic of 18 years service, who arrived in the 4x4, told Hull Coroner’s Court he had considered requesting an air ambulance, but was told it would take 15 minutes to arrive.

Alasdair was instead taken down the lane in the 4x4 and transferred to the ambulance, which arrived at Hull Royal Infirmary at 12.57pm.

An emergency team was waiting at the hospital to treat the teenager, but there were no signs of life and they stopped attempting to resuscitate him at 1.10pm, when his death was confirmed.

After the tragedy, Mr Blucke searched the area of the house where Alasdair had been and saw a memory stick attached to a cord but with its lid missing.

He told police he thought his son may have swallowed the lid and handed the rest of the device in as evidence.

After being taken through his statement by the coroner Mr Blucke was asked if there was anything he wanted to say. “I have nothing to add,” he replied.

Hull and East Riding Coroner Geoffrey Saul recorded a verdict of accidental death, and told Mr Blucke: “To yourself and other members of the family I want to express my condolences at the very tragic loss of a young life.”

After the hearing, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said such incidents were “extremely rare”, but urged people to be aware of the dangers.

Sheila Merrill, the charity’s public health adviser, said: “Deaths from choking on everyday items are thankfully extremely rare, but tragic cases like this do raise awareness of how seemingly innocuous items can be involved in accidents. Our thoughts are with Alasdair Blucke’s family.

“People often chew on items subconsciously while concentrating on the task at hand, and we would encourage people to remember that small objects like this can pose a choking hazard.”