The parents of tragic toddler Jacob Jenkins who died after choking on a grape say they still blame themselves for their baby boy’s death.
Hartlepool couple Abigail Wilson and David Jenkins’ world was turned upside during a family meal at the town’s Pizza Hut last October.
The youngster had been eating a grape when it become lodged in his throat.
An inquest held into two-year-old’s death found that his death was accidental.
Despite this, his parents say they still blame themselves for what happened.
Speaking after the inquest held in Newcastle yesterday, his mum said: “The inquest doesn’t change anything, we still blame ourselves for what happened. It does help a little that a professional person has said it was an accidental death – but for us it doesn’t change a thing.”
The inquest heard how staff, customers, paramedics and his parents tried in vain to save him.
After frantic attempts to remove the grape, he was taken to hospital in Middlesbrough and then transferred to the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle.
He was put on life support but on October 14 and as his parents kept a bedside vigil, residents of Hartlepool took to social media to light candles of hope, praying he would pull through. They were joined by people from across the world who took little Jacob to their hearts after reading about the tragedy.
Jacob’s plight led to an outpouring of support from people of all ages and in a show of unity, hundreds of residents gathered in Seaton Carew on October 14 to take part in a balloon release in his name as they willed him to get better.
However, while yellow balloons – his favourite colour – sailed into the night sky, his parents took the heartbreaking decision to turn off the machine that was keeping him alive.
Speaking at the time, Abigail said: “It wasn’t a case of we were giving up on Jacob – there was just nothing more we could do. It was such a hard decision for us both.
“We decided on 7pm as we knew people would have him in their thoughts and that gave us a little bit of comfort knowing that – we hope people understand.”
Following his death there was an outpouring of grief and when his funeral was held, a service for the youngster led to St Joseph’s Church in St Paul’s Road being packed out. Outside, hundreds more people lined the streets and Jacob passed them as he made the journey to his final resting place, yellow balloons were released.
Concluding Jacob’s death was accidental, coroner, Karen Dilks said: “Jacob, who was two years old, went with his family on what was intended to be a social occasion. Tragically, a completely unexpected and unintended event occurred.
“That was that Jacob, eating grapes no one considered any risk, then choked on one of those grapes and that led to a chain of events that tragically starved Jacob’s brain of oxygen and that was the reason why he died.
“I can reach no other conclusion that this was in every sense a tragic accident.
“My conclusion therefore is one of accidental death.”
She said the tragedy served as a warning about the “unexpected risks” of small children eating grapes. She sent her condolences to Jacob’s parents, who were not at the hearing at Newcastle’s Civic Centre.