Girl had heart attack in playhouse at Essex nursery

An outdoor playhouse at an Essex nursery in which a child got her head wedged and suffered a heart attack had been modified, an inquest has heard.

Rhiya Malin, aged two, from Chigwell, was pronounced dead in hospital after the incident at Eton Manor Children's Day Nursery, on 7 November 2007.

An inquest at Essex Coroner's Court heard she was one of 13 or 14 children supervised by four members of staff.

The children were playing outside but Rhiya did not come back in when called.

Paediatric pathologist Professor Rupert Risdon told the inquest he understood compression on the little girl's neck was likely to have triggered a heart attack, causing her death.

Her head had become wedged in the angle of an outdoor playhouse window while she was looking through it.

"Even brief neck compression can lead rapidly to death," he said.

Resuscitation attempted

The inquest heard Rhiya was a lively, happy and healthy child, but had been a bit grizzly and clingy on the day of her death.

She had wanted to remain at home rather than go to the nursery, her father Jean-Pierre Malin said.

He was initially told by a staff member at the nursery that his daughter had suffered a fit, and that he needed to go to Whipps Cross Hospital immediately.

When he got there a police officer told him his daughter was found hanging inside the nursery's outdoor playhouse.

"At least six or seven doctors were trying to resuscitate her," he said.

After half an hour of failed attempts to revive Rhiya, a doctor said "does anyone see any reason why we should continue?" Mr Malin said.

He added that he was not aware the playhouse had been modified.

'Quite hysterical'

Kayley Murphy, manager of the Flounders room for children aged two to three, said: "She was in the corner of the playhouse.

"I could only see her shoulders and her head. I went around to where her face was. She was not moving at all."

Ms Murphy said she went inside the playhouse to help Rhiya out but attempts to revive her failed.

"I was quite hysterical. I shouted for someone to help me," she said.

Jade Parker took over because she was in a calmer frame of mind, the inquest heard.

Prash Popat, lawyer for Mr Malin and his wife Shati, asked Ms Murphy if she was aware of instructions issued by the manufacturer of the outdoor playhouse that said supervision of children was required "at all times".

Ms Murphy said she was not.

The inquest heard Ms Murphy took a call on her mobile, which lasted for about four minutes, around the time of Rhiya's death.

At the same time she was primarily focused on one child in particular, who did not want to be in the garden because it was cold.

Another staff member Rebecca Bremner had taken a child to the bathroom leaving just two nursery workers to oversee the children around the time of Rhiya's death.

The inquest at Chelmsford continues.

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