A CAFE volunteer died after choking on a piece of Christmas cake in her lunch break, an inquest heard.
Linda Cummins, 57, died at the Creative Cafe, in the Gemini Centre, in Villiers Street, Hartlepool, on January 9.
Coroner Malcolm Donnelly said Ms Cummins seemed to “cough and choke” on the food and she collapsed.
Paramedics arrived but Ms Cummins, of the town’s Sandringham Road, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr Donnelly recorded a verdict of accidental death, saying: “This was an accident, she choked on food and inhaled.”
Hartlepool Coroner’s Court heard that Ms Cummins had a number of health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure, but these wouldn’t have been a contributory factor in her death.
Pathologist Jan Lowe carried out a post mortem examination and he gave the cause of death as “choking and inhalation of food”.
Mr Donnelly told Ms Cummins’ relatives, including her father Raymond: “It sometimes happens that something goes down the wrong way.
“Often, we just cough, and that clears the passage. It’s a reflex we have.
“We have all experienced this.
“Sadly, if the food goes further down, the natural reaction is to get air into the lungs, and the only way to get air into the lungs is down through the windpipe, and so the more we try, the more it gets the material lodged, and that stops the heart.
“I’m satisfied that we don’t need to find anything else out here – we are talking about Christmas cake, maybe it was a raisin, maybe it was a nut, we don’t know.
“Clearly there was a large solid mass, and I am satisfied this was an accident.” Ms Cummins brother told the inquest: “She used to eat her food really fast anyway.
“We used to tell her all the time.”
Mr Donnelly said despite the “best efforts of everybody there, I don’t think she could have been saved.”
He added: “Can we learn lessons from it? Perhaps we can – the sort of lessons we learn on our mother’s knee from a very early age.”