An inquest opened yesterday to find out how a four-year-old girl with severe autism ingested such a large amount of salt that it killed her.
Opening the inquest before coroner Jim Kitson, a lawyer outlined how Lindsey Angela Alvarez was rushed to the Ulster Hospital at the end of July 2009 before being transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at the RVH children’s hospital.
Two weeks short of her fifth birthday, Lindsey tragically died from cerebral hypoxia and oedema when her brain became so swollen that it killed her.
Her death was the first of two tragedies to befall the Alvarez family as three years later, at the end of December 2012, her two-year-old brother Rham was crushed to death in a car accident.
His mum Amelda was pushing him in his buggy along the Comber Road in Dundonald when Darren Conway’s car rolled backwards, pinning him against a fence.
Earlier this year Conway, 32, from Rutherglen Gardens in Bangor, was handed a suspended jail term after he admitted causing the boy’s death by careless driving.
Yesterday David Sharpe, barrister for the coroner’s court, said that over the course of the week-long hearing, questions would be asked as to how the little girl managed to ingest such an “excessive” amount of salt, whether it was fed to her or whether she swallowed it herself.
The coroner heard evidence that as Filipinos the family used very little salt and that it was kept in a tub on a high shelf in a kitchen cupboard.
Her uncle, Michael Valderama, was in charge of caring for Lindsey and his own three children that day, and he wept in the witness box when Mr Sharpe asked how concerned he had been about Lindsey that morning.
He claimed that Lindsey only took one sip of lukewarm water that morning and did not eat anything.
Mr Sharpe asked him point-blank whether he gave the child any salt in a drink of water, and he said: “I did not give any water with salt to Lindsey, only lukewarm water.”
Asked by his solicitor Kieran O’Hare if he caused the girl to be sick or injured in his care that morning, Mr Valderama answered: “No.”
Earlier his wife Mylin testified that her husband was “very concerned” about his niece, and that she did not believe that he would have put salt in Lindsey’s drink.
The court is due to hear expert medical evidence as the inquest carries on.