Tragedy of boy, 7, who choked on Christmas toy

Wharfedale Hospital, where Joe was taken
Wharfedale Hospital, where Joe was taken
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A SEVEN-year-old boy died after choking on the arm of an Aladdin toy in a tragic accident just days before Christmas, an inquest has heard.

Joseph Lightowler was eating sweets in the back of his dad’s car while he, his dad John Lightowler and two other children waited for his mum, Sonya Toner, to visit friend Beverley Wilkinson on December 13 last year.

The court heard that Sonya and Beverley then heard screaming coming from outside - as Joseph - known as Joe - was choking on the plastic arm of the Disney character.

Unconscious Joe was rushed to Wharfedale General Hospital, where a GP tried CPR - but she was not trained in intubation so Joe was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

Despite the best efforts of medical staff there, Joe could not be saved and was sadly pronounced dead.

A statement from Ms Wilkinson, read aloud to Bradford Coroner’s Court, said: “Sonya had come over to drop something off at my house just before Christmas and we stepped inside.

“Then we heard a noise and John was shouting Sonya’s name and that Joe was choking.

“We ran outside and Joe was on his side. Sonya picked him up and started slapping his back.

“He was unconsciousness at this point.

“I rang an ambulance but we decided to go to a walk-in minor injuries clinic.”

Joe was seen by Dr Hannah Watson at Wharfedale hospital, a GP who worked on duty at Wharfedale Hospital on Saturday mornings.

Dr Watson told the court that efforts by herself were made to look into Joe’s airways to try to find the blockage.

Dr Watson said: “I was unable to see any foreign body in his nose and throat.

“It was clear that CPR needed to be commenced but it was obvious that there was no air getting in because of the blockage.

“We used a mouth piece that goes into the throat to hold the tongue back to try to create an airway.”

Dr Watson explained that unfortunately she was not trained to perform an intubation but had she been able to do so it wouldn’t have succeeded because of the obstruction.

Paramedics arrived at the clinic and took Joe to Leeds General Infirmary where he was met by doctors who continued to try to revive him.

Dr Grace Ehidiamhen explained that his airways and breathing were checked and a blockage became obvious.

He was also given adrenaline to try to kickstart his heart.

Dr Ehidiamhen said: “We were able to use a bronchoscope with a camera attached to look down his airways and find and remove the obstruction.

“However, his condition never improved.

“Unfortunately, this was inevitable from when he came in.

“There was nothing else we could have done.”

It was later discovered that Joe had swallowed the arm of a toy and, following picture evidence, Disney Store Ltd confirmed it was the arm from an Aladdin doll as part of Jasmine’s handbag play set sold by the company between 2006 - 2009.

An independent report was launched following Joe’s tragic death by Yorkshire Ambulance Service after it was revealed that an ambulance had been cancelled.

The first ambulance called before the family went to Wharfedale was cancelled and a second call that requested the same ambulance was made when he arrived at the minor injuries clinic.

This caused the paramedics to arrive at the scene five minutes later than if they had gone straight there from the first call.

However, Peter Leighton, the paramedic who attended Joe, explained that arriving five minutes earlier would not likely have affected the outcome.

He said: “Had we arrived at Wharfedale five minutes earlier, it wouldn’t have altered anything.

“We would have been the first people to see Joe and he wouldn’t have had the care he received by the doctors at Wharfedale.”

Ben Holdaway, locality director for YAS who contributed to the independent report, explained why the first ambulance was cancelled and a second one requested when at Wharfedale instead of the first ambulance being re-routed.

He said: “Ambulances need to have a set one route.

“We have to know what they are responding to, to appropriate their response.

“We also have a duty of care to our staff and all the people involved.”

He added: “The family made the right decision in taking Joe to Wharfedale Minor Injuries Clinic.”

Recording a conclusion of accident, assistant coroner Oliver Longstaff expressed his deepest sympathy with Joe’s family.

He said: “The outcome of this incident was inevitable from the outset.

“That doesn’t mean that it was not appropriate to look at how the emergency was managed.

“I see on the balance of probabilities that the sequence of events made no difference to the outcome here.”

He added: “When a child loses their future it’s a difficult burden for his parents to bear.

“I hope there is a great deal to remember about Joe that will always bring happiness.”