Cork city coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, recorded a verdict of misadventure after hearing details of the tragic death of Walter David Burrell last December.
Mr Burrell, 83, from Glounthaune, Co Cork, was joined by his life-long friends, Bobby Ingram and his wife, Sylvia, for a meal at the Silver Springs Moran Hotel in Cork on Dec 7.
The couple were visiting from Belfast and had enjoyed a meal with Mr Burrell twice in the two days before.
In his deposition read to the court yesterday, Mr Ingram said his friend was in great form on previous occasions.
But he said Mr Burrell appeared quieter than usual when they met for dinner in the Silver Springs restaurant around 6.30pm on Dec 7.
The court heard how the party had finished their starters and were about half way through the main course when something went wrong.
Mr Ingram said a strange expression came over Mr Burrell’s face.
He said his friend looked at him and then placed his left hand on top of his wife’s hand.
Mr Ingram said Mr Burrell never coughed, spoke or complained, and they urged him to spit out what was in his mouth.
He said Mr Burrell then leaned back in his chair and they knew he was in distress.
His face went grey and Mr Ingram smacked him between the shoulder blades before restaurant staff rushed to help.
Restaurant manager, Glen Gomez, said he cleared Mr Burrell’s mouth, helped move him to a nearby couch and phoned for an ambulance.
They tried to make Mr Burrell comfortable and performed CPR until paramedics arrived.
Mr Burrell was rushed to Cork University Hospital but was pronounced dead a short time later.
Gardaí later launched an investigation and established that neither the Ingrams, nor restaurant staff, were aware that Mr Burrell was choking. They simply thought he had “taken a turn”.
Assistant state pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster, said paramedics later removed a large piece of un-chewed beef from Mr Burrell’s larynx.
She said death was due to acute cardio-respiratory failure due to impaction of food in the larynx — a so-called café coronary.
She said Mr Burrell, who had Parkinson’s Disease, was in the high-risk category for a café coronary given his age, his dentition and his medical condition.
Dr Cullinane expressed her sympathies to Mr Burrell’s family and said unfortunately, details of such deaths are not uncommon in her court, particularly amongst vulnerable groups of older adults.