Chorley Hotel manager Darren Hickey dies after eating hot fishcake

A hotel manager died after eating a hot fishcake which burned his throat and caused it to swell.

Thursday, 10th October 2019, 4:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th October 2019, 5:01 pm
Darren Hickey

Darren Hickey, 51, worked as a manager and lived at the Ridgmont House wedding venue, in Chorley Old Road, Horwich.

He was leaving the building to go to a meeting of a charity he worked with when he was asked to try a fishcake by one of the chefs.

The food burnt the back of his throat, causing his voicebox to swell over the hours that followed, and ultimately stopping him from breathing.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He attended Chorley Hospital on April 4 but was sent home with paracetamol, Bolton Coroner’s Court heard. The coroner has now raised questions over the care he received there.

Dr Patrick Waugh, the pathologist who performed Mr Hickey’s post-mortem, said the case was very rare.

He told the inquest: “He’s had hot food and stated, ‘I’ve burned my throat’. Then there’s pain and he would have had difficulty swallowing because of the pain and then he would have had more swelling which would have made it difficult to breathe or swallow.

“Basically, we normally see this scenario in people who are involved in house fires with inhalation of smoke which burns the airways or in industrial accidents with hot steam. The patient can appear well, they will be talking to you, but then the swelling starts.”

Acting senior coroner Alan Walsh heard how Mr Hickey had visited the Urgent Care ward at Chorley after complaining to his partner Neil Parkinson of pain in his throat on the afternoon of April 4.

However, partly because of the rarity of the injury, he was sent home with paracetamol and advice to return if the pain increased.

The swelling in Mr Hickey’s throat continued to get worse and after returning to Ridgmont House he tried to go to his room and rest.

At around 9.45pm, Mr Parkinson heard his partner making noises and found him appearing to choke.

He told the inquest: “He shouted so I ran upstairs. He was stood up choking and coughing so I banged his back but then he slid forward onto the floor.”

An ambulance was called, but was delayed for around five minutes due a problem with the postcode of the building.

Paramedics treated Mr Hickey at the scene and rushed him to the Royal Bolton Hospital but he was pronounced dead in the early hours of April 5.

The inquest heard the delay in the ambulance was unlikely to have contributed to Mr Hickey’s death.

The horrific incident happened seven years after the former maitre d’ suffered a massive stroke which left him in hospital for 18 months, and some difficulty walking and speaking.

Despite this setback, Mr Hickey channelled much of his energy into charity work was handed the Inspirational Person of Courage Award by the Stroke Association.

“He was enormously positive and enormously caring and gave to charity - he was a very generous, caring and compassionate man,” Mr Walsh said.

“He was a remarkably strong and resilient man to overcome that stroke.”

The coroner went on to say that the case had raised questions about the care at Chorley Hospital’s Urgent Care ward, which is run by GTD Healthcare as an extra unit to take pressure away from the Accident and Emergency Department.

Mr Hickey had been seen by a practitioner in this ward who also contacted a specialist from the Ear, Nose and Throat unit at Preston Hospital.

However, because of a number of unusual circumstances surrounding the case, including the lack of burns to Mr Hickey’s mouth and tongue, they were unable to find the damage, which occurred far enough down his throat that it could not be seen without specialist equipment.

Samuel Eaton, head of services for GTD in the region, and Matthew Gaunt, from NHS Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Group, assured the coroner that a full review into the incident would be carried out.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Walsh said: “I believe there are enormous lessons to be learned.

“This was caused by eating a fishcake, very small and very hot but with catastrophic consequences. I find this an immense tragedy.”