UK

Coroner Issues Metal Straws Hazard Warning As Woman Impaled Through Her Eye After Fall

By Isabel van Brugen

A coroner has urged people to use metal drinking straws with caution after a retired British jockey died when she fell onto the item, impaling her eye and causing fatal brain injuries.

Elena Struthers-Gardner, 60, also known as Lena, was at her Dorset home carrying a mason-jar style drinking glass with a metal straw attached to its lid, when she suddenly collapsed on Nov. 22 last year.

She fell onto the 10-inch stainless steel straw, which went through her left eye socket and into her brain, according to reports.

A coroner has spoken out since the fatal accident, saying “great care should be taken” when using the items, reported The Telegraph.

The coroner also warned individuals against using metal drinking straws which are attached to a lid.

Mandy Struthers-Gardner, who had been married to the jockey for four years, said she called emergency services when she saw Struthers-Gardner lying face down on the floor making “unusual gurgling sounds” with the straw “sticking in her head.”

“I did not hear her fall,” she described in a statement read by the coroner, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I went to the kitchen door and could see Lena lying on her front at the doorway between the den and the kitchen,” she recalled.

“Her glass cup was lying on the floor still intact and the straw was still in the jar.”

She described how her wife appeared to stop breathing while she was ringing for medical assistance.

When she turned her around, she saw the metal straw had pierced her left eye socket, she explained.

She was sadly pronounced dead the following day at Southampton General Hospital. Her death was concluded to be accidental, and caused by a traumatic brain injury, said assistant coroner Brendan Allen.

The retired jockey often collapsed and fell over, as she had mobility issues since the age of 21 when she was involved in a riding accident, an inquest into her death heard.

To deal with the pain from her spinal injuries, which caused scoliosis, she started taking fentanyl, and then slowly became dependent on alcohol, her wife said.

The tip of the straw ended up resting against the back of Struthers-Gardner’s skull, injuring her brain stem, which controls breathing, reported The Telegraph.

Assistant coroner Allen said people must take “great care” when using metal drinking straws, as a fall like Struthers-Gardner’s could be fatal.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The 60-year-old’s wife said she believes the metal straws can be extremely hazardous, especially for those with mobility issues.

“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,” she said.

“Even if they don’t end a life, they can be very dangerous.”

Metal drinking straws, and other eco-friendly alternatives, have seen a surge of popularity in recent years, as people move to limit their use of single-use plastic.

In 2016, Starbucks was forced to recall more than 2.8 million metal straws after children who used the coffee giant’s stock were left with cuts in their mouths, reported the Daily Mail.

The recalled metal straws were sold on its official site in the United States and Canada in a bundle of three for around $6. Starbucks cups with metal straws attached were also recalled, and cost between $11 and $30.

Announcing the recall, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned against children using the stainless steel straws.