The mother of a teenager who died after eating a Pret A Manger baguette sobbed today as British Airways cabin crew said landing safely was more important than getting a defibrillator.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, suffered a fatal reaction to a sandwich from the chain, which she had not realised contained sesame, in July 2016, and fell ill after boarding a plane to France.
Natasha was given CPR for around 50 minutes on the flight after two EpiPens and an adrenalin injection failed to halt the allergic reaction that caused a cardiac arrest.
But today the inquest heard that cabin crew were unable to access a defibrillator to restart her heart because the plane was descending and staff had to be near the doors.
Natasha’s mother Tanya then put her head in her hands and cried as she heard the evidence at West London Coroner’s Court.
Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, his son Alex and wife Tanya (pictured today) arrive at the inquest of Natasha, 15, whose mother sobbed today as she heard how BA crew tried to save her
Natasha, 15 (pictured), died of a severe allergic reaction after she bought the artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from a shop at Heathrow Terminal 5 but was feeling ill within minutes
Captain Richard Hunter was in charge of the flight from London Heathrow to Nice and said he became aware of the emergency too late to divert to another airport.
Pret didn’t have to list sesame on sandwich ingredients because it was made in store
Pret, one of the country’s biggest food chains, did not have to list sesame seeds as an ingredient in the £3.45 sandwich.
Pret products do not have to be individually labelled with allergen or ingredient information.
This is because Pret sandwiches are freshly prepared in store.
The loophole is supposed to free small, independent sandwich shops and cafe chains from onerous regulations applied to factory packaged foods.
Instead, signs on shelves and by tills in Pret stores tell customers with allergies to speak to a manager who is trained to give allergen advice.
Before hearing of the case, Pret had started to improve the allergen information it offers customers, but the inquest will explore whether more should be done.
Pret’s website now carries a list of allergens in its food and drinks, including highlighting sesame in the artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette.
He said: ‘My co-pilot and I realised there was little point going is to Lyon becayse we would have needed about the same time in the air and air traffic control was expecting us in nice’, adding it could only have cut the flight time by five minutes.
Mr Hunter also said that cabin crew had not made him aware that ‘it was a life threatening situation’ – just that Natasha was unwell.
He claimed that cabin crew manager Mario Ballestri told him the teenager was ‘feeling slightly better’ after an EpiPen was used but returned ten minutes later to say she was now severely ill.
But Mr Bellestri told West London Coroner’s Court that this was not true and claimed the captain told him a satellite phone system connecting the plane with an emergency doctor ‘wasn’t working’.
Captain Hunter denied this and said pilots are ‘encouraged’ to be distracted by ‘non operational calls’ while descending to land.
Head of cabin crew John Harris was also asked why BA staff had not got the defibrillator.
Natasha’s mother, Tanya, wept in court and was comforted by other family members as Mr Harris said: ‘Without sounding harsh, the coverage of doors takes priority.’
He explained that it was a formal requirement of his training to ensure cabin crew were in position on landing so they could get passengers off the aircraft in case of an emergency.
‘There were only five cabin crew on that particular flight and the aircraft had four sets of doors, totalling eight doors, and one cabin crew member was out of action.
‘So we literally had the minimum number of crew to cover those doors,’ he said.
Yesterday it was revealed that Pret A Manger was warned about nine customers suffering an allergic reaction to sesame in its food in the year before Natasha died after eating one of the chain’s baguettes.
Six of those affected had eaten the same ‘artisan’ baguettes containing sesame seeds that triggered the fatal attack in 2016.
The baguette she bought at Pret’s Heathrow Terminal 5 branch did not have sesame listed on the ingredients, her family say
Pret’s packaging failed to mention sesame seeds were ‘hidden’ in the dough despite being given a ‘specific warning’ about the dangers, West London Coroner’s Court was told.
Natasha, from Fulham, suffered a cardiac arrest on a British Airways flight to Nice on July 17, 2016, after buying an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette at Heathrow Airport which she did not know contained sesame.
The inquest into her death heard a 17-year-old girl nearly died nine months earlier after going into anaphylactic shock from seeds in the same sandwich, bought from a shop in Cardiff.
After reading about Natasha’s death, she contacted the family’s lawyers to say she had also suffered a severe allergic reaction.
The unnamed girl’s mother, a GP, made a complaint to Pret after her daughter ended up on a drip but the chain still failed to label the sandwiches with allergy information.
It was among nine cases of allergic reactions to sesame seeds recorded in the sandwich chain’s complaints log in the year before Natasha’s death.
Pret said its allergen labelling policy has since been changed.
Natasha’s father Nadim, the millionaire founder and chief executive of WOW Toys, administered two EpiPens in a bid to save her while a junior doctor on board the flight gave her CPR.
She was heard crying out ‘Daddy, help me’ as she struggled to breathe. Natasha died in a French hospital later that day.
In heartbreaking evidence, her father also said that minutes after she died he cut off a lock of her hair and told her: ‘We would love her forever and never forget her’, the inquest at West London Coroner’s Court heard.
Mr Ednan-Laperouse said: ‘It is the worst imaginable thing to happen as a parent’ and also described helping the French undertaker nail her coffin shut.