Woman dies after falling eye-first on eco-friendly straw
A woman has died after falling onto an eco-friendly metal straw that pierced her eye and brain, 9News has reported.
Elena Struthers-Gardner, a retired jockey from Dorset, England, suffered fatal brain injuries after the freak accident on November 22.
She was carrying a mason jar with a screw-top lid and a 10-inch stainless steel straw when she collapsed and the straw impaled her left eyelid and eyeball. It severely damaged her brain stem, which controls breathing, with the tip of the pipe coming to a rest against the back of her skull.
Elena’s wife, Mandy Struthers-Gardner called an ambulance straight away and she was rushed to Southampton General Hospital. Tragically, the 60-year-old died in hospital after her life support was switched off the next day.
Metal staws have soared in popularity after pleas from environmentalists including David Attenborough to reduce single-plastic use.
Yesterday, at an inquest into Mrs Struthers-Gardner's death, a coroner stated that metal drinking straws should never be used with a lid that fixes them in place, and "great care should be taken" while holding them.
Speaking in court, her wife of four years described the incident in a statement, saying: "I went to the kitchen door and could see Elena lying on her front at the doorway between the den (a room where she watched TV) 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, Elena 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."
She continued: "I was quickly informed that due to the severity of her injury it was very unlikely she would survive. We saw a couple of specialists and were told there was nothing they could do."
Mrs Struthers-Gardner reportedly suffered a riding accident at the age of 21; as a result, she suffered with mobility issues and was prone to falling over.
Her wife said the 60-year-old had scoliosis and multiple fractures in her spine, and would often collapse "like a sack of potatoes at random intervals".
"I just feel that in the hands of mobility challenged people like Elena, or children, or even able-bodied people losing their footing, these things [metal straws] are so long and very strong. Even if they don’t end a life they can be very dangerous," she said. "...I miss her very much, she was taken far too early. I hope this never happens to anyone else."
In the months leading up to the former jockey's death, she had allegedly been drinking about half a liter of vodka a day mixed with orange juice from the mason jar cup, following a reduction in her fentanyl pain medication.
Assistant coroner Brendan Allen said there was "insufficient evidence" to explain how Elena came to fall, stating: "There was no alcohol present in the urine sample so intoxication did not contribute to the fall. 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 straws 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."