Pensioner choked on out-of-date fruit cake

A man who insisted on eating an out-of-date fruit cake choked on the crumbs.

Edward Reilly, 81, collapsed and died at his Galway home after eating the cake that his help assistant wanted to throw out.

Teresa Flannery told Mr Reilly’s inquest yesterday she was employed by HSE West as a home help at the Reilly Home, Railway Lodge, Rosshill, Doughiska Rd.

She had worked for Mr Reilly and his wife, Jenny for a number of years. After Mrs Reilly passed away, she had continued to work with her husband.

On May 2, she had done a general tidy-up and set about organising his tea. She arranged some brown bread and found a fruit cake that had been opened “for well over a week”.

She left it on the worktop and asked Mr Reilly if she should throw it out. After she repeated the question, she turned around to find he was already eating the cake, but seemed to have difficulty swallowing.

She went to get him some water but he had, by now, moved out to the front of the house and had vomited up the cake. He took a sip of water, but then fell down.

“I couldn’t hold him, so I let him down gently”, Ms Flannery said.

She called an ambulance and was instructed to begin CPR. A passing motorist also came to her aid and took over CPR while she went for help to a neighbouring house.

An ambulance and gardaí arrived, but Mr Reilly, who has significant health problems, subsequently passed away.

She told West Galway Coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin she believed Mr Reilly had inhaled, rather than swallowed, the cake. “It went down the wrong way,” she said.

Ms Flannery confirmed she knew how to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre, but pointed out that when she went to give Mr Reilly some water, she thought he had vomited up all of the cake.

He had suffered from cancer and coronary artery disease and had undergone a heart bypass.

Pathologist Dr Helen Ingoldsby said there was extensive food material in the trachea (windpipe). The cake had broken into crumbs and went into his pulmonary system (lungs). She concluded the cause of death was asphyxia due to airway obstruction by food.


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