Authorities in Denton trying to find out why first-grader collapsed and died

Investigators are working to determine why a first-grader at a Denton elementary school collapsed and died after eating lunch Tuesday.

An autopsy was performed Wednesday and the cause of death is pending, awaiting body tissue and toxicology tests that could take several weeks to complete, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner.

Jensen Wright, 7, of Denton died at Denton Regional Medical Center shortly after she collapsed at Wayne Stuart Ryan Elementary, said Troy Taylor, chief investigator with the medical examiner's satellite office in Denton.

She had eaten a peanut butter sandwich and an apple, and then went to the restroom before returning to the cafeteria to get in line to go back to the classroom, Taylor said.

"As she was in line, a classmate yelled at a teacher that something was wrong with her," Taylor said.

The teacher walked Jensen to a nurse's office, Taylor said.

"The nurse noticed that her lips were blue, but her heart rate was fine," Taylor said.

Jensen then collapsed.

The nurse tried a Heimlich maneuver and cardiopulmonary resuscitation before paramedics arrived.

She was taken to the hospital, where she died at 12:41 p.m. Tuesday.

Denton school district representatives did not return phone calls to the Star-Telegram.

Food allergies

Although early reports suggest that she may have choked to death, investigators are also looking into whether Jensen had a food allergy that triggered anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction with rapid onset and the potential to cause death.

Jensen also brought string cheese, grapes and strawberries to lunch, but authorities were not sure whether she ate any of them.

"Food allergy has been a big a concern across the nation," said Sandi Delack, president of the National Association of School Nurses.

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network states that nationally, food allergies are responsible for 50,000 to 125,000 emergency-room visits each year. About 3.3 million Americans are estimated to be allergic to peanuts or other nuts. About 2.2 million school-age children in the U.S. have food allergies.

Generally, school nurses develop a health plan for a student when a youngster has a documented food allergy. Some nurses have epinephrine (adrenaline) in case of anaphylactic reactions.



DIANE SMITH, 817-390-7675