Natasha Ednan-Laperouse was only 15 when she died. Her mother and brother had to say goodbye to her over the phone. She begged "Daddy help me" before collapsing in her father's arms. Details of the young girl's death have been tragic from the moment they hit the news, but a recent inquest has revealed that Natasha's death was, in fact, totally avoidable.
The teenager was traveling with her best friend and her father, heading out for the kind of trip most teenagers only dream about. Natasha was going to a festival and then off to Greece for two weeks. As the excited trio made their way through the airport, Natasha stopped to grab a bite to eat. The group stopped at the Pret A Manger in Terminal Five of Heathrow Airport and Natasha started checking labels. She had a sesame allergy, so label checking was a regular part of her life. After settling on an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette, she happily made her way onto the plane.
She started feeling odd during the flight, and made her way to the bathroom to try and feel better. That's when the red welts first appeared and the shortness of breath started. Before the short flight had landed, the teen had been administered two Epipens, lost consciousness in her father's arms after begging "Daddy help me," and was given CPR by a junior doctor who just happened to be on board. The young girl's heart stopped and she was declared dead at a hospital later that same day.
Many have expressed outrage over the incident since it occurred. Natasha knew what her allergens were, but the Pret A Manger failed to label the baguette appropriately: It contained sesame. Not only that, the company had been warned at least nine times in the last year about their failure to properly label their products. When Natasha's grandmother went to a different location to check the label herself, she was disappointed but not surprised to see that it still wasn't labeled correctly. She asked an employee about allergens and was given a dusty folder of information to peruse herself.
There, buried down in the list, she found what she was looking for. Sesame was used in the dough to make the baguette, but wasn't included on the list of ingredients on any of the items in the eatery. Natasha did everything she was supposed to do to be safe. The company had been told repeatedly to adjust the labeling practices. They chose not to, and she ended up exposed to the allergen that eventually killed her.
That's bad enough, but it's about to get even worse.
The inquest found that Natasha's allergic reaction caused her to go into cardiac arrest as the plane was beginning to land. Flight crew had a defibrillator on board. They could have used it. They made the decision not to get the machine that could have restarted Natasha's heart because "the coverage of doors takes priority."
The head of the cabin crew told the court that it is standard policy to have flight crew in certain positions to cover the doors in case they need to be opened quickly upon landing. Rather than break policy to help Natasha, flight crew went to their stations by the doors. At least one of them would have had to pass the defibrillator's place onboard. Nobody retrieved it. Nobody even tried to retrieve it so that passengers could pass it back to where Natasha was being worked on.
The head of cabin crew explained to the judge:
"Without sounding harsh, the coverage of doors takes priority... There were only five cabin crew on that particular flight and the aircraft had four sets of doors, totaling eight doors, and one cabin crew member was out of action. So we literally had the minimum number of crew to cover those doors."
Natasha's mother wept when she heard them explain that the flight crew hadn't made any attempt to get, much less use, the machine. The inquest found that crew waited until the plane was on the ground and medics were there before bringing out the defibrillator.
The news made its way to Twitter, and people were stunned.