(TMU) – As people across the world seek alternatives to single-use disposable plastic products, which generate enormous amounts of waste, eco-friendly alternatives have come in the form of such products as bamboo trash bags, avocado pit-based cutlery, and myriad other products.
However, a coroner in the U.K. is warning that one such sustainable alternative – the metal straw – should be used with caution after a 60-year-old retired jockey died after she fell on the straw, impaling her own eye.
Elena Struthers-Gardner suffered traumatic brain injuries at her home in Broadstone, England, after collapsing while carrying a mason-jar style drinking glass with a screw-top lid fitted with a metal straw, The Independent reports.
Upon falling down, the 10-inch stainless steel straw penetrated her left eye socket before piercing her brain stem, which controls breathing. The tip of the straw was only stopped when it reached the back of her skull.
The freak accident has led to the local coroner warning that such metal drinking straws should only be used in the absence of lids that hold them in place, and that “great care should be taken” when using them.
Her wife of four years, Mandy Struthers-Gardner, didn’t hear the fall when it occurred but found her lying on her front while making “unusual gurgling sounds.”
“I did not hear her fall.
“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 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, Lena 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.”
Struthers-Gardner died in the hospital the very next day.
In a statement to investigators that followed her death, 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.”
The death was eventually deemed by investigators to be accidental. Assistant coroner Brendan Allen said:
“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.”