"This is a tragic loss": Northampton girl, 9, died on family holiday to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

"I was called into a room and told by a doctor there was nothing they could do to save Ava"

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 2:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 4:56 pm

A nine-year-old girl from Northampton died on a family holiday to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, after she had an allergic reaction to food she had eaten.

The inquest into Ava-Grace Stevens' death, on October 28 2019, was held in Northampton today (Wednesday, April 14).

A statement was read out at the inquest on behalf of the girl's father, Geoffrey Stevens, which detailed what happened on the day of his daughter's death.

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The inquest was held at Sessions House, Northampton
The inquest was held at Sessions House, Northampton

The inquest heard how after a day out at Disney World the family returned to their villa for dinner that evening.

After dinner, Ava's younger brother, Harrison, began to 'breathe funny' and his face started to 'swell'. This immediately raised concerns, as Ava had similar allergies to her brother.

Ava's allergies included exacerbation of asthma, cat and dog hair allergies, severe cow's milk allergy which caused anaphylactic reactions, and she was also seen regularly by a doctor for breathing difficulties. This all meant Ava had to have a milk-free diet.

Mr Stevens said he 'immediately' knew that the foods they had eaten contained milk. He said: "They [Harrison and Ava] both ate dinner fine and went to play.

"I was then made aware Harrison was breathing funny and his face was swelling. I went downstairs to check the food labels, as I read the labels I saw it said 'non-fat milk'. I knew immediately it contained skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.

"I ran to Ava, who was watching a film in the cinema room. When I asked Ava if she was ok she said she was."

Mr Stevens said he then went back up to his son and gave him more treatment. Ava's mother, Stephanie, then saw her daughter was now having a reaction, which caused the girl's face turn grey and stopped her from breathing.

The inquest heard how Ava was placed onto the floor and given CPR while an ambulance was called. Police and paramedics then arrived and Ava was rushed to hospital.

Mr Stevens said: "I was called into a room and told by a doctor there was nothing they could do to save Ava. I can say this was an awful, tragic accident."

The inquest heard how prior to the holiday, the girl's parents took steps to make sure everything was safe for their children.

Mr Stevens said: "In the run up to the holiday Stephanie and I took Ava to visit the doctors. We also got extra prescription medication for the holiday. We did everything we could to ensure they were not around dairy products.

"Everyone [the wider family] had been briefed about Harrison and Ava's allergies and they knew not to share food."

Mr Stevens said that he and his wife also went grocery shopping the day before Disney World , where they checked all of the food items were suitable for the children and all of the food in the house was placed 'up high' so they could not get it.

However, when shopping in America, Mr Stevens said the food labels in the UK are 'clearer to read' than in the US, with many details 'tucked behind labels'.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Ava'a parents through this difficult time.

On the donation page it reads: "Ava was an amazing, beautiful, bright and talented little girl who had a zest for life and all things Harry Potter! She was a much loved daughter, sister, granddaughter, great granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend to so many.

"Ava will always remain in our hearts and will be the brightest star. We love you forever princess."

The pathologist working on the case said Ava had an 'acute exacerbation of asthma in the context of probable food allergen exposure'.

Coroner Anne Pember said: "This is a tragic loss of a little girl who was clearly very loved. Huge steps were taken by her parents to ensure she was given appropriate food."

The coroner concluded that Ava's death was accidental.