Coroner's apology to grieving family

A grieving family believe they could have helped investigations into their son's death if they had been allowed to speak to the pathologist.

Parents Norma and Stanley Payton knew son Rick was not eating when he stopped breathing but a 'game of Chinese whispers' led a doctor to think he choked on chocolate cake.

They received an apology from the coroner at the inquest into Rick Payton's death last Thursday.

Coroner John Pollard said: "I'm sorry that you have been caused several months' additional distress."

The hearing at Stockport Coroner's Court discovered that the 30-year-old died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS).

Stanley Payton told the court: "We would've liked to have got this information to (pathologist) Dr Benatar at an earlier stage.

"I'm quite concerned that as a family we had six months distress thinking that he choked."

This week Mr Payton said: "We feel better after the cause of death was changed but we are still in shock even though it is six months ago now.

"We were all here when Rick died and we felt we could all help."

Rick was sat at home watching a football match on September 9, with his father and brother when he lost consciousness after suddenly developing palpitations.

Family, paramedics and hospital staff made lengthy efforts to revive him but nothing could be done to save him.

While at the hospital Mr and Mrs Payton, of Stamford Road, Audenshaw, mentioned Rick had eaten two small chocolate bars half an hour before his collapse.

By the time the information had been passed through nurses, doctors and the coroner, it reached pathologist Brian Benatar that Rick was eating chocolate cake when he stopped breathing.

Dr Benatar concluded Rick had choked and the chocolate melted after his collapse.

He changed his opinion on questioning the family and hospital doctors in court.

The cause of death was paroxysmal cardiac arrhythmia – a naturally occurring problem with the rhythm of the heart which led to its failure.

Mr Pollard recorded a verdict of natural causes.

The Payton's have since been in touch with the charity CRY which provides support and medical information on sudden cardiac death.

Mrs Payton said: "We are glad that Rick was here with us and he didn't suffer."

"It had a marked effect on David (Rick's brother and knocked his confidence," added Mr Payton.

"At first he was really worried it would happen to him."

They are now keen to publicise CRY and the work it does highlighting and researching conditions related to SADS and counselling affected families.

The couple were overwhelmed by the support they received with Rick died.

Mr Payton said: "He was a very quiet, private person, but very sociable."

The computer engineer had developed an internet game and built up an online community.

"He had a lot of online friends," said Mrs Payton.

"We got over 300 e-mails from them. He was a lovely person and we miss him."

Mr Payton said: "The cards we received from them – he had helped so many of them get through their difficult times."

Rick's online pals have collected £500 to pay for a bench in tribute to their friend.

The family had a tree planted in his honour, a Japanese Acer, as maples were his favourite.