“I’ll see you after school,” Karanbir Cheema told his grandfather before he walked out the door on an otherwise normal June morning. According to his mother, those were the last words she and the boy’s grandfather ever heard him say: the 13-year-old went into anaphylactic shock at lunch and fell into a coma. Cheema’s family was with him when he died in a London hospital ten days later.
At a coroner’s inquest held this week, police officers and paramedics testified about Cheema’s death last July. The boy had severe allergies to wheat, gluten, dairy products, eggs and nuts, and was also an asthmatic. His classmates were aware of his condition—but his death was allegedly caused by a fellow student who dropped a slice of cheese down the back of his shirt.
School staff members quickly administered his asthma inhaler, gave him two doses of an antihistamine, and injected him with an Epipen to prevent anaphylaxis. According to The Telegraph, one first responder testified that he and his ambulance crew arrived at the school seven minutes after being called.
“On arrival at the scene I immediately knew it was life threatening and that the patient had a high risk of going into cardiac and respiratory arrest,” paramedic Kierin Oppatt said. “We were told by school staff that perhaps someone had chased the patient with cheese and had proceeded to throw it down his t-shirt. That he had an allergic reaction, that he was itchy, his skin was very hot, and that he was having difficulty breathing.”
Cheema stopped breathing while receiving treatment and, although the paramedics gave him CPR, a shot of adrenaline and used a defibrillator, he never regained consciousness. He died at Great Ormond Street Hospital on July 9.
One of Cheema’s 13-year-old classmates was arrested shortly after the incident on suspicion of attempted murder, but has not been formally charged. A police officer said that the student was no longer enrolled at that school.
“He was brilliant at computers and maths, he was an amazing student. He was always on the computer. He talked about being a computer engineer,” Cheema’s father told The Evening Standard shortly after his death. “We were so proud of him. He had a very bright future. There are a million things he could have done with his life.”