• Marcus Sweet fell into anaphylactic shock after a spoonful before dinner
  • Despite taking antihistamine and being given CPR, he died within an hour
  • Wife Julie accused paramedic Vic Ward of failing to act properly
  • After brief suspension and training, Mr Ward is back at work

By Mia De Graaf


A man collapsed and died after suffering an allergic reaction to his wife's homemade coconut curry.

Marcus Sweet, 46, returned from work feeling fine to find his wife Julie preparing Indian food for their evening meal.

She gave him a small amount of her coconut cream to taste and within minutes he complained of a sore throat.

Mr Sweet, a cleaning supervisor, took some Calpol and Beechams as he started struggling to breathe, but his condition worsened and Julie called an ambulance.

Tragic: Marcus Sweet, 46, here with his wife, Julie and daughter Courtney, had an immediate reaction to the food

Tragic: Marcus Sweet, 46, here with his wife, Julie and daughter Courtney, had an immediate reaction

Julie, the wife of Marcus Sweet, 46, told Flax Bourton Coroner's Court her husband had eaten coconut before

Devastated: Julie, the wife of Marcus Sweet, 46, told Flax Bourton Coroner's Court he had eaten coconut before without reacting. But he collapsed when she gave him some coconut cream at their home in Bristol

Mrs Sweet, of Stapleton, Bristol, told Flax Bourton Coroner's Court: 'He was looking a little bit clammy and a bit different. I told him he was starting to scare me.

'He said his throat was really sore and asked me to take him to hospital. I called an ambulance immediately.'

A paramedic arrived within four minutes of her call, but Mr Sweet's airwaves were closing and he began to turn blue.

Before he could be treated, he suffered a cardiac arrest and died, despite the arrival of more paramedics and an ambulance.

The inquest heard that Mr Sweet, who had one infant daughter, Courtney, had eaten coconut before but not coconut cream.

His family accused Mr Vic Ward, the first responder who treated Mr Sweet, of failing to act properly to save his life in November 2011.

They claimed that Mr Ward 'just sat there' and the paramedic admitted to the coroner: 'This was possibly one of the worst incidents I have ever attended in my 30 years of work.

'I think I was a bit like a rabbit in headlights for a couple of minutes before I reconciled what I did next. It was stretching the boundaries of my experience.'

The inquest at Flax Bourton, near Bristol, heard that Mr Ward diagnosed Mr Sweet's condition as a reaction to the coconut cream.

He treated it with an injection of the antihistamine Piriton, but minutes later Mr Sweet went into anaphylactic shock, clutching his throat, complaining he could not breathe.

His wife said: 'All of a sudden he just bolted upright like a meerkat and began to say he couldn't breathe.

Fatal: Mr Sweet, a cleaning supervisor, was feeling fine when he came home from work earlier that day

Fatal: Mr Sweet, a cleaning supervisor, was feeling fine when he came home from work earlier that day

'Within minutes of having the injection he was more clammy and he had difficulty breathing. He made the horrible noise with his breathing. He sounded like a death rattle.

'He was turning blue and his face had swollen and his tongue was sticking out.

'I didn't think he was going to recover from that. I looked at Vic Ward and just thought "do something, for goodness sakes do something".'

Josephine Needs, Mr Sweet's mother-in-law who was also at the house for dinner when he died, told the inquest: 'It was clear that Marcus wanted the paramedic's help but the paramedic was by the window with his back to him.

'It looked like he was ignoring him. Marcus didn't look a good colour. He was clearly very, very unwell.'

The inquest heard Mr Ward moved to a lamp in the dimly-lit room to prepare an oxygen cylinder after the injection.

But as he did so, Mr Sweet fell off the sofa and went into a cardiac arrest.


While reactions to coconuts are relatively rare, an allergy to products derived from the tree nut is more common.

The reasons behind this vary from person to person.

Often, it is a case of cross-reactivity.

That means the person is sensitive to a property present in a number of foods - coconut, milk, and duck eggs - that is highly concentrated when combined, for example in cream.

In other cases, the person is in fact reacting to a chemical in the product, not the coconut itself.

A short while later, back-up medics and an ambulance arrived and the crew administered CPR.

But after half an hour they were forced to stop and pronounced Mr Sweet dead.

The inquest was also told that Mr Sweet suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition which may have been a contributory factor.

Pathologist Dr David Paterson said Mr Sweet died of acute respiratory obstruction, acute laryngitis with mechanical and allergic inflammation, and coronary artery atheroma.

Recording a narrative conclusion Coroner Maria Voisin said: 'Marcus Sweet suffered an allergic reaction. Paramedics were called but despite treatment he received he died.' 

The inquest heard paramedic Vic Ward had initially been suspended following the death and had undergone extra training, but was now back at work.

Dr Colin Holburn, a consultant in Accident and Emergency Medicine, told the inquest that had Mr Ward acted quicker with the oxygen he probably would not have prevented his death.

Giving evidence he said: 'Even if he had given oxygen a minute before, when Mr Sweet had a compromised air way, and we know he had a compromised heart, the cardiac arrest might have happened because of the stresses of the anaphylactic shock.'

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

What??? Given piriton injection? I think it is the greatest misconduct in management of such acute cause I ever heard.

If he had an existing anaphylaxic condition, surely an epipen would've been within reach.for the wife to give it to him. This is so tragic.

RIP all my thoughts for the family. Sudden death is the worse and most devastating thing that can happen.

Lets blame someone society

Paramedics are trained to know the signs of anaphylactic shock and therefore should have administered an epi-pen which could have saved his life. There's no time for being 'a rabbit in headlights' especially when you're a medic. RIP.

Why did they administer Piriton? The usual drug to use with anaphylaxis is epinephrine/ adrenaline.

How awful :( just goes to show just how quickly such allergies can kill you. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife and family at this sad time

Can't understand why the paramedic didn't give him the adrenaline injection that would have helped him much more and might even have saved him. It is standard first aid for anaphylaxis.

Because if he had children you might write in person or on to the internet condolences to his wife 'and children'.

I heard of a man who after eating curry when into a corma

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