BOURNEMOUTH, England – A retired jockey died when she fell onto an eco-friendly metal drinking straw which impaled her eye, an inquest heard.
Elena Struthers-Gardner, 60, who was known as ‘Lena,’ suffered brain injuries in the accident at her home in Broadstone.
She was carrying a mason-jar style drinking glass with a screw-top lid in her kitchen when she collapsed. The 10-inch stainless steel straw entered her left eye socket and pierced her brain.
Her death has led to a coroner warning that metal drinking straws should never be used with a lid that fixes them in place, and “great care should be taken” while using them.
Struthers-Gardner was fatally injured at her home in Cannon Close on the evening of November 22 last year.
In a statement read out by the coroner, her wife of four years Mandy Struthers-Gardner said she hadn’t heard the fall, but found Mrs Struthers-Gardner lying on her front and making “unusual gurgling sounds”.
When she turned Mrs Struthers-Gardner over, she realized the straw had gone through her eye.
“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.
“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.”
Mrs Struthers-Gardner was rushed to Southampton General Hospital but died the following day.
The inquest heard she suffered with mobility difficulties following a riding accident when she was 21.
Following a reduction in her high levels of fentanyl pain medication, she had become alcohol dependent.
Due to severe pain from her riding accident which caused multiple fractures to Mrs Struthers-Gardner’s lumbar spine and caused scoliosis, she was prone to falling over, collapsing at random intervals, her wife added.
She said: “I just feel that in the hands of mobility challenged people like Elena, or children, or even able-bodied people losing their footing, these [straws] are so long and very strong.
“Even if they don’t end a life, they can be very dangerous.”
The cause of death was a traumatic brain injury. Recording a conclusion of accidental death, assistant coroner Brendan Allen said: “Clearly great care should be taken when using these metal straws. 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 straw 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.”
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