MERCER COUNTY, Pennsylvania - Hot dogs are being banned from the cafeteria at a small Western Pennsylvania elementary school after a young student died from choking on the lunch time staple.
8 year old Aizeya Mattocks began choking on the hot dog during lunch last Monday at Mercer Area Elementary School.
Several adults attempted to dislodge the food from her airway using the Hemlich maneuver, but were unsuccessful.
Aizeya was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh where she was pronounced dead Wednesday night.
At the hospital, she needed help breathing and may have suffered heart and brain damage, medical workers said.
"Her smile lit up the room," said Jamie Mattocks, Aizeya’s aunt.
Family and friends were devastated by her death. They say Aizeya was an outgoing little girl who loved her Barbie dolls, baton and hot dogs.
Her stunned grandfather said she never had trouble eating them in the past.
Grief counselors spent Thursday at the school, but Superintendent Bill Gathers said the students were taking the death hard. “A very difficult day, especially among the children she was friends with."
As word spread that many children were also afraid to eat lunch, Gathers also confirmed that hot dogs would no longer be on the menu at the school.
"I've spoken to the cafeteria director and she has removed hot dogs from the menu and she won't be serving them anymore."
While pediatricians understand the fear, they say banning hot dogs might not be the correct approach.
"That’s not the approach. Parents need to take a safe approach and use this as teaching example to teach good habits," said Dr. Abdulla Ghori, Director of Pediatrics at MetroHealth Medical Center.
Dr. Ghori says children need to learn to take small bites, chew slowly and never talk or goof around while eating.
He says, “Just banning hot dogs will not solve the problem. Children choke on toys more than food items."
Dr. Ghori calls Aizeya’s death “a really tragic accident that should not have happened.”