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7-Year-Old Dies Eating Lunch: Is the School Responsible?

This weekend, as families across the country celebrated Halloween, one Brooklyn mother was forced to say goodbye to her 7-year-old daughter after the little girl choked on her school lunch.

PS 250 first-grader Noelia Echavarria had complained about feeling rushed during school lunches before. During her lunch period on October 21st, she choked on a sandwich. Her family believes she might have been hurrying to finish before the lunch period ended.

One teacher flagged down an EMT that happened to be parked in front of the school. The EMT rushed to Noelia’s aid, but the scene he found inside was unexpected.

“She was already turning blue and that takes awhile,” said EMT Qwasi Reid, estimating that Noelia had been choking for at least five minutes and yet still no one had called 9-1-1. “People were screaming, but no one was doing anything.”

Instead, Noelia’s family was called. Her uncle had arrived at the school before Reid was called in. Reid cleared out Noelia’s mouth and administered CPR to her. Once 9-1-1 was called, EMTs and paramedics from Brooklyn Hospital arrived within four minutes. Sadly, it was already too late for Noelia.

Noelia was on life support at NYU Langone Medical Center for three days before she was declared brain dead. She died on Friday.

School principal RoseAnn LaCioppa sent a letter` to parents in response to the incident. “I want to reassure you that our school personnel has been trained in response to emergencies,” wrote LaCioppa, although the lunch staff’s failure to act in a timely manner says otherwise.

The law in New York defines negligence by a Board of Education as “the failure to use the same degree of care and supervision over the pupils under its control as a reasonably prudent parent would use under the same circumstances.” From the information provided so far, it appears PS 250 did not act like a reasonably prudent parent.

From school overcrowding to shorter lunch periods, there are a number of unfortunate circumstances that may have contributed to Noelia’s choking. We still don’t know all the facts. We do know, however, that far too much time passed before EMTs were called. An immediate 9-1-1 call could have made all the difference for Noelia.


Cavallier, Andrea, “7-year-old Brooklyn girl who choked on school lunch has died,” Pix 11, 30 October 2015. Reporter, “Girl, 7, who choked on her school lunch dies after spending three days on life support,” Daily Mail, October 30 2015.

Rosenbaum, Sophia and Dana Sauchelli, “Family says no one helped brain-dead girl who choked on school lunch,” New York Post, 28 October 2015.

Semnani, Neda, “Family Blames Williamsburg School for 7-Year Old Girl Declared Brain-Dead,” DNAinfo, 28 October 2015.

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