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  1. ITV Report

Schoolgirl Natasha Ednan-Laperouse begged 'Daddy, help me' after allergic reaction on flight to Nice, inquest hears

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

A teenage girl who died after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette said "Daddy, help me" as she struggled to breathe, an inquest has heard.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, collapsed on a British Airways flight from London to Nice on July 17 2016.

She had been travelling with her father and best friend and stopped to get an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette as they passed through Heathrow Airport’s terminal five.

Natasha was allergic to the ingredient and suffered a cardiac arrest despite two epipens being applied to her legs. She was declared dead the same day at a Nice hospital.

Unknown to the group, the sandwich dough contained sesame seed, a detail not mentioned on its packaging, according to a statement from her father, Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, read on the first day of her inquest at West London Coroner’s Court.

The inquest was told on Monday that Pret usually has transparent stickers with white text stuck to its fridges, outlining allergy information.

Natasha's family outside of court. Credit: ITV News

The family’s lawyer, Jeremy Hyam QC, suggested these had not been in place in July 2016, when he questioned the general manager of the branch at the time, Abdoulaye-Djouma Diallo.

Mr Hyam also told him a health officer from Hillingdon Council visited the terminal five branch in May 2017 and reported "there were no till stickers to be seen at the till area".

The family’s lawyer became emotional as he read Mr Ednan-Laperouse’s statement to the inquest on Monday, at one stage pausing to regain composure.

Natasha at first felt her throat growing itchy and returned from the toilet with vicious red hives on her midriff, the inquest heard.

She was rushed to the cabin’s toilets, where her father applied an epipen.

The statement said: "We waited a couple of minutes to see how she reacted. She said she couldn’t breathe properly and it was was getting worse and urged me to get the second epipen right away."

Statement from Natasha's father Nadim Ednan-Laperouse. Credit: ITV News

He quickly jabbed the second epipen into her upper thigh, but it failed to relieve the symptoms.

"Natasha said that she still couldn’t breathe and desperately looked at me, she said ‘Daddy, help me, I can’t breathe’."

She soon lost consciousness and cabin staff were aided by a recently qualified junior doctor in applying CPR for the remainder of the journey.

The doctor, Thomas Pearson-Jones, had graduated from Oxford University the day before and was a passenger on the flight.

As hope began to fade that Natasha would survive in hospital, her father put a phone to her ear so her mother and brother could say goodbye.

Her mother Tanya could be seen wiping her eyes as she listened to the statement.

"The pain and agony of the call was beyond anything I have known," the statement said of the moment Mr Ednan-Laperouse broke the news to Natasha’s mother.

He then called his own mother and asked her to visit a branch of Pret a Manger in west London to examine the sandwich.

Finding nothing on the label or on the shelf, his mother made inquiries at the counter and was handed a folder of information.

"My mother looked down the list and found that the baguette dough had sesame seed inside it," the statement said.

"I was stunned that a big food company like Pret could mislabel a sandwich and this could cause my daughter to die."

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse was described by her family as 'gentle, brave and loyal'. Credit: PA

The group had gone to the Pret branch at 7am, around one hour before they were due to fly.

“Natasha told me she had found a baguette that contained all the ingredients she loved and could eat,” her father’s statement said.

The label gave "no indication or mention that sesame seeds were present”, he said, adding: "Natasha and I relied on food information and saw no need to ask Pret counter staff if any other information was needed."

Natasha had been travelling to Nice for a four-day break with her best friend at the start of what should have been "the best summer ever", her parents said in an earlier statement.

She was due to attend a youth Christian festival in Norfolk and go on a two-week family holiday to Greece during the summer months.

At the time of her death, Natasha had been working towards her GSCEs and hoped to pursue a career in law.

She also showed promise as a figure skater and loved horse riding, her family said.

The inquest heard on Monday that she had suffered from food allergies her entire life, but learnt to be diligent in scrutinising food labels and was alert to the danger of cross-contamination, the inquest heard.

Natasha put "her trust in food labelling", her father’s statement said.

Antihistamines, epipens and inhalers had never before failed to halt an allergic reaction, it was heard.

No allergy information on show at Pret Branch linked to death. Credit: PA

Between April and December 2016, allergy stickers were ordered on repeated occasions for the tills and fridges, or "langers" – amounting to 30 till stickers and 25 langer stickers.

By contrast, none had been ordered between May 2015, when the manager started, and April 2016.

Mr Hyam said this seemed "bizarre", but Mr Diallo insisted they were bought in preparation for a forthcoming refurbishment, with the remainder serving as "back-up".

The lawyer suggested "an alternative theory", telling the inquest: "My suggestion is that you ordered them because you knew there were missing stickers".

He continued: "Although the absence of stickers were being identified and although stickers were being ordered, they weren’t actually being put on the langers".

Mr Diallo denied this, saying he would not order stickers to "leave them in the office".

Pret A Manager in a statement said: "We were deeply saddened to hear about Natasha’s tragic death, and our heartfelt thoughts are with her family and friends.

"We take food allergies and how allergen information is provided to our customers extremely seriously. We will continue to do all that we can to assist the Coroner’s inquest."

The inquest continues.