Teenager who collapsed in car park ‘died of natural causes’
NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD HAD BEEN CELEBRATING WITH BOYFRIEND
A 19-YEAR-OLD girl who died after collapsing in the car park of the Intu shopping centre, in Uxbridge, died of natural causes.
The ruling into Alice Brooks’ death from a coroner came on Friday September 21, following a three-day hearing at West London Coroner’s Court.
Alice collapsed on the fourth floor of the intu Uxbridge car park after spending a day out with her boyfriend, celebrating their 10-month anniversary, including a meal at Wagamama, in High Street, on November 25 2014. She died in hospital three days later.
Since childhood, Alice suffered from a number of allergies, including latex and nuts, as well as serious asthma.
During the inquest, the court heard that Alice had run through 19 blue “reliever” inhalers during the year leading up to her death.
However, it emerged that she had only used two purple “preventer” inhalers during the same time period. Her boyfriend Michael Jeffries said she had often used the blue inhaler, but “very rarely” used the purple inhaler in his presence.
Her mother, Suzanne Wilby, described how her daughter previously suffered a reaction after sipping a bottle of Coca Cola belonging to someone who had eaten a Snickers bar several hours earlier.
As a child she also suffered with heavy breathing when someone sat close to her ate a bag of nuts and one day she was sent home from working in a bakery when she had a severe reaction to a colleague baking a walnut cake.
Michael Jeffries told the court how he and Alice visited intu Uxbridge to celebrate their anniversary on November 25, 2014.
“It was our 10-month anniversary and for that I surprised her by getting her tattoo re-done, on her left thigh,” he said.
“After that we went to Uxbridge to do some Christmas shopping and for lunch. We went to Wagamama. I’d never been before but she wanted to go there. At that point everything was fine.
“Whenever we went for food she would ask about nuts and look at the allergy charts.
“The waitress came over and asked what we wanted and Alice asked if there were nuts in the dish she wanted. The manager then came over with the allergy chart and confirmed nothing on it was in the food
“Alice made sure it didn’t contain nuts but she asked to double check.”
A police officer later visited the restaurant and quizzed staff over allergy protocol, while a Hillingdon Council inspector investigated the restaurant and even ordered the same food Alice did – ginger chicken noodles with tofu – and sent it for investigation.
It emerged that there was a trace of peanuts in the tofu, at the very bottom of the detection limits ruled by inspectors, however it was ruled that this was “spurious” and could alter with the amount served and its preparation. Wagamama made some minor changes to procedure in response, but the coroner’s remarks included a mention of the company being an “early leading adapter of food allergy labelling”. Just a few days after Alice’s death, new national food labelling regulations came in to force.
“We finished the food and went out and we carried on to do more Christmas shopping,” Michael said.
“We were walking into The Pavilions when she started to feel unwell so we decided to walk back to the car.
“She used her inhaler, which levelled her breathing out, but only for a bit and then it was getting worse and worse every time. I’d never seen her breathing so bad.
“We got to the fourth floor of the car park and into the car and then she said she really didn’t feel very good.
“She said her throat was frozen up and her breathing was really bad at that point. Her lips started turning blue and that was when she had an anaphylactic shock – in the driver’s seat. I got her out of the car and stood over her and her breathing got worse.
“She got her Epipen out but she passed out before she could use it. She told me to get it from her bag. I took it and put it in her right thigh.”
Michael rang 999 and told the operator his girlfriend was having an anaphylactic shock.
A solo responder arrived and within minutes a medical technician, Stephen Hale, was singlehandedly giving Alice life support after she slipped into a cardiac arrest.
Mr Hale told the inquest: “I remember finding Alice lying between parked cars surrounded by inhalers. I can’t remember how many but certainly more than one.
“Her boyfriend said he used an Epipen and she had a reaction after they ate at Wagamama.
“Within one minute of me arriving she went into cardiac arrest and I gave basic life support with decompressions and mask and air.”
Two other ambulances arrived but were unable to enter the car park. Paramedics found their way to the victim and helped resuscitate her before transporting her to Hillingdon Hospital for further treatment.
She was initially treated there, before being moved to St Thomas’ Hospital, where both her doctors and pathologists believed the cause of death to be related to her “long history of uncontrolled asthma” and not related to her allergies.
A written statement read in court from Dr Andrew Jones, who treated her at St Thomas,’ described that Alice suffered a “catastrophic brain injury” and had a “complete absence of brain function”.
Alice’s family made the decision to remove her from life support in the early hours of November 29 2014.
The coroner, Dr Sean Cummings, concluded on Friday September 21 that her death was from natural causes, ruling that it occurred from “the consequences of an acute or chronic asthma attack”.
A spokesman for Wagamama said: “The coroner’s verdict on the tragic death of Alice Brooks was that she died from acute or chronic asthma.
“This brings to an end a devastating series of events her family have had to endure for nearly four years. It is hard for anyone, other than them, to fully understand how they have lived with the loss of such a beautiful daughter, sister and friend.
“We send our sincere condolences and best wishes to all her loved ones, in particular her proud and loving mum.”
Whenever we went for food she would ask about nuts and look at the allergy charts Boyfriend Michael Jeffries
The intu Uxbridge shopping centre car park
The couple had been for a meal at Wagamama