London - A retired jockey was killed after falling on to an eco-friendly metal drinking straw which impaled her eye, an inquest heard.
Elena Struthers-Gardner suffered catastrophic brain damage in the freak accident at her home.
The 60-year-old, who suffered from severe scoliosis – curvature of the spine – was carrying a mason jar glass with a screw-top lid which fixed the metal straw in place when she collapsed and fell in her kitchen.
Re-usable, eco-friendly straws have become increasingly popular since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series drew attention to the vast ocean pollution caused by single-use plastics.
The UK alone throws away 8.5 billion plastic straws each year.
Yesterday, assistant coroner Brendan Allen warned the metal straws should never be used with a lid that fixes them in place.
He said: ‘Clearly great care should be taken when using these metal straws. There is no give in them. If someone does fall on one and it’s pointed in the wrong direction, serious injury can occur.’
Mrs Struthers-Gardner’s wife, Mandy, added: ‘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 are so long and very strong.
‘Even if they don’t end a life, they can be very dangerous.’
In a statement to the inquest, she described the moment she found her stricken partner, who was also known as Lena.
She said: ‘I went to the kitchen door and could see Lena lying on her front at the doorway between the den and the kitchen. She was making unusual sounds. Her glass cup was lying on the floor and the straw was still in the jar.
‘I called 999 and requested an ambulance. While I was on the phone, Lena appeared to have stopped breathing.’
Mrs Struthers-Gardner, from Poole, Dorset, was rushed to Southampton General Hospital but it was quickly clear that she would not survive.
Her life support was switched off and she died the next day in November last year.
Mrs Struthers-Gardner suffered from mobility issues after a horse riding accident when she was 21 years old which fractured her spine and caused her to develop scoliosis, Bournemouth coroner’s court was told.
According to her wife, Mrs-Struthers-Gardner was prone to collapsing ‘like a sack of potatoes’ at random intervals due to her condition and had become alcohol-dependant after reductions in her pain medication. She used the glass jar to drink vodka mixed with orange juice.
After the inquest, Mandy Struthers-Gardner said: ‘I miss her very much – she was taken far too early. I hope this never happens to anyone else.’Daily Mail