The mother of the 15-year-old who died after eating a baguette at Pret a Manger has revealed the last words she said to her daughter before she died.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died after falling ill on a British Airways flight to Nice two years ago. On Friday an inquest into her death found the allergen information on the food packaging was “inadequate”.
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.
He told his wife: “You’ve got to say goodbye to her now. Don’t lose time. She’s going to die any minute. Say something. Do it right now. She might hear it. The phone is by her ear.”
Yesterday, in her first public comments about her daughter’s death, Tanya revealed what she said during the phone call.
“I said, ‘Tashi, I love you so much, darling. I’ll be with you soon. I’ll be with you.’ I fell to the ground. I couldn’t talk, I was engulfed with grief. I knew then she was gone — she was dead,” she said.
Tanya had rushed to Stansted airport after learning that her daughter had collapsed on a flight from London Heathrow.
Tanya said: “The lady at the check-in desk said, ‘I’m sorry, the flight’s full.’ I started crying, I said, ‘You’ve got to get me to France, my daughter’s dying.’ Somehow she got me on. I was sobbing the whole time.”
Natasha’s parents broke their silence following the end of a five-day inquest which is expected to trigger major changes to both food safety regulations and the way people suffering severe allergic reactions are treated in emergencies.
Shortly before boarding the plane their daughter had eaten an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette from a Pret a Manger in Terminal 5.
Unknown to Natasha and her father, who was travelling with her, the bread contained sesame seeds to which she had been severely allergic since at least the age of two.
Despite being administered with two EpiPens by her father, she lost consciousness and cabin staff were aided by a junior doctor, who had been on board, in applying CPR for the remainder of the journey.
She was declared dead at University Hospital of Nice later the same day.
In a letter published by the Sunday Times, her parents said their daughter had suffered her first allergic reaction when she was 6 months old to a tiny piece of banana and had learnt to be extremely careful with anything she ate.
They described how terrifying it was to learn that your child had life threatening allergies: “At first you are too scared to do anything and then you learn to try to give your child as normal a life as possible. It is a life of constant vigilance. You understand one mistake can be fatal.”
They said their daughter learned to be careful from a young age and by the time she was nine, she was checking labels. She was amazing, with a great sense of responsibility,” they said.
Their daughter had bought the baguette in good faith, thinking it was a safe food for her, the letter said.
“We know Natasha didn’t die on our watch. She died on Pret’s watch, all thanks to the absence of two little words.
“If the label had listed ‘sesame seeds’ Natasha wouldn’t have touched it and she’d still be alive ... The vigilance we had learnt to live our lives by was gone in a second. It was heart-breaking.”
After her death, the family began researching labelling laws and realised that the law was too weak.
They added that Pret failed to carry out an internal investigation following their daughter’s death and the chief executive had only written to them offering his condolences for Natasha’s death last month, two years after she died.
They said their daughter would have been “furious” by what happened to her and that she loved the idea of justice prevailing.
They added: “We imagine her punching the air when the coroner gave his conclusion on Friday. And we would imagine her punching the air if there was a law that honoured her memory to reduce the chance of this ever happening again.”