'The baby's dying!
He's dying! He's choking!'
Family trip to the movies turns tragic when
3-year-old chokes to death on his popcorn
Eddie Riley consoles his wife, Elaine McIntosh, who breaks down while explaining how her 3-year-old son, Deonte Riley, choked to death on popcorn at the movies on Sunday.
The movie was only a few minutes old when Elaine McIntosh knew something was horribly wrong.
Her 3-year-old son started gasping for air, choking to death on a mouthful of popcorn.
"I told my husband, I said, 'Eddie, take the baby, take the baby, the baby's dying. He's dying, he's choking, he's dying!'"
Despite the heroic efforts of a nurse, cops and paramedics, little Deonte Riley died minutes later.
"The baby was gone," McIntosh recalled yesterday. "He was gone. He died in my husband's arms."
The tragedy occurred Sunday night at the Sunrise Multiplex Cinemas in Valley Stream, L.I., where the Queens family was enjoying a rare evening out.
McIntosh and her husband, Eddie Riley, had decided to take Deonte and his 13-year-old brother, Eddie Jr., to see "Alien vs. Predator" because the children loved monsters.
They missed the 5:15 p.m. showing and decided to kill time until the 6:35 p.m. show.
They bought popcorn and hot dogs from the concession stand. Little Deonte busied himself near the video games, feeding quarters into the slots.
"He was jumping, laughing, talking, we even took pictures," McIntosh, 41, recalled.
When they entered the theater, McIntosh remembered looking over at Deonte's seat during the previews to "make sure he was okay because he moves so much."
Tragedy struck about 15 minutes into the film.
"At one point when I looked, he started gasping, he started looking [scared]. I pat him on the back as hard as I can.
"Nothing came out. He was beside me."
McIntosh broke down in tears, then tried to compose herself.
"The next thing I know he was jumping up and down. I tried to pat his back. I had no response. I gave him to my husband. I said, 'The baby's dying! Help!'"
Riley ran with Deonte to a nearby bathroom, where he - and later a registered nurse who happened to be at the movies - tried clearing his airway with their fingers and performing the Heimlich maneuver.
"I was freaking out," Riley said. "I was trying everything. ... I was trying to put my finger down his throat. I didn't feel anything."
Riley said he struggled with the Heimlich because Deonte's little "body was so limp. Every time I tried to do it, he was just flopping around. I was trying not to hurt my own son, while trying to revive him at the same time."
When the nurse's efforts failed, Riley, 36, said he grabbed Deonte and ran him into the lobby, where guards took him outside.
Several Nassau County cops performed CPR on the child atop their patrol car until paramedics arrived and inserted a tube into his trachea and rushed him to Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, L.I. Deonte was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
"We were trying everything to bring the baby's life back. But nobody could have saved him. Nobody," McIntosh lamented.
The trip to the movies was supposed to be fun for a family that had been down on its luck.
A special education teacher for the city for six years, McIntosh said she was laid off last year because of budget cuts, triggering a downward spiral. In February, they were evicted after not being able to pay the rent in their Jamaica apartment.
After bouncing around homeless shelters, they moved to the Briarwood, a residence in Kew Gardens for homeless families.
But their fortunes were starting to improve. Her husband had just gotten a job in June as a security guard in the Bronx. Her brother, Steven, had given them a 1997 Chrysler Cirrus and they were planning to move in September to Jacksonville, Fla., where she said she had an education job lined up.
She was so devastated by Deonte's death that she lay down in the rain-slicked street yesterday in front of her homeless shelter.
"A car almost ran me over. The [shelter's] director stopped the car," she said. "I just felt like I wanted to be with my baby where he is now. ... I know he can't come back. He's in a better place now. But I miss him."
Compounding her misery is the fact that her family cannot afford a funeral for the child.
"We don't have any money to pay for the burial for the baby," she cried. "We have nothing."
KD Editorial: ORIGINALLY I WAS GOING TO TOTALLY GO OFF ON THE IDEA THAT ORVILLE REDANBAUCH HAD THIS ONE COMING TO HIM GOOD, THAT POPCORN WAS THE KID'S KILLER LIKE A CLUE GAME, BUT I DID READ THE ARTICLE A FEW TIMES AND GOTTA SAY THIS ONE ISNT SO OUT OF BOUNDS, ITS A WAKE UP CALL TO AMERICANS ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY.. SINCE WHEN DOES THE MOVIE THEATERS START SELLING SUCH STALE POPCORN THAT IT KILLS PEOPLE NOW?!?!? UNBELIEVABLE, I SERIOUSLY, THINK FOR MANY REASONS THEY NEED TO OVERCOAT THAT POPCORN WITH MORE BUTTER THAN ITS WORTH INSTEAD OF THE 1-2 LICKS I GET, AND THEY IT OOZES TO THE BOTTOM, AN FRIGGIN WASTE OF MONEY .. $5.00 FOR A TUB.. TOTAL CRAP...