Grape is blamed in choking death of 4-year-old girl

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2010 - 7:07 AM

A whole grape is being blamed for the choking death of a Minnesota 4-year-old.


Police in North Mankato said Tuesday that Hannah Kozitza ate the grape while at Golden Heart Child Care Center last Thursday.
 

Hannah was unresponsive and had no pulse when police arrived at the day care, which serves employees of Taylor Corp.

Resuscitation efforts by the officers and then by paramedics failed to revive her. She later died at Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mankato, where she was born Dec. 11, 2005.
 

The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office ruled that Hannah was asphyxiated by the grape.
 

Officials with Taylor Corp., a leading graphics communications company owned by Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, were not immediately available Wednesday to comment on the medical examiner’s findings.
 

The state Department of Human Services, which licenses day care facilities, is investigating the death, said North Mankato Police Chief C.J. Boyer. The chief said part of the investigation is focusing on where Hannah got the grape.
 

The department confirmed that it is investigating Golden Heart, but agency spokesman Jon Siess declined to address specifics. Siess said investigators will try “to determine whether any licensing violations or maltreatment occurred.” He said that if there are such findings, “corrective action” can range from orders or fines to a license being suspended or revoked.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) lists whole grapes as a choking hazard for young children.
 

“Although children under age 4 are most at risk for choking on food and small objects, youngsters in their middle years can choke too,” the AAP says on its website.
 

“A number of foods or other items  -- for instance, hot dogs, poorly chewed pieces of meat, grapes, raw carrots, hard candy, balloons, small toy parts -- can become lodged in the child’s airway.”
 

The AAP urges parents and other caregivers to cut food for infants and small children into pieces no larger than a half-inch and then instruct the child to chew food thoroughly.
 

Last September in southern California, a 2-year-old boy choked to death on a large grape while riding in a car. Two other cases involving children choking on a whole grape and dying occurred in Britain, one in 2005 and another in 2007. One child was 18 months old, and the other was 2 years old.

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