The heartbroken family of a five-year-old girl who tragically choked to death on a snack during a car ride have been targeted by callous trolls.
Imogen Lennon, from Canowindra in Central West NSW, died on January 16 when she choked on a deli frankfurt as she chatted to her mother on the way home from swimming lessons.
Family friend Tamara Harrison told Daily Mail Australia she has been bombarded with ‘nasty’ emails since launching an online fundraiser to help Imogen’s parents, Samantha and Bill Lennon, pay for funeral costs.
The five-year-old, from Canowindra, in Central West NSW, died on January 16 after choking on a deli frankfurt as she chatted to her mother on the way home from swimming lessons.
Ms Harrison said strangers had sent her messages and posted comments online saying the family did not deserve to have money raised on their behalf, and that they must not have done enough to save Imogen’s life.
But Ms Harrison said that could not be further from the truth.
‘Imogen was sitting in the back of the car and has taken in a big breath of air as she was eating and began choking,’ Ms Harrison said.
Imogen Lennon, 5, tragically died after choking on a deli frankfurt on January 16
Some strangers said online Imogen’s parents should have known first aid – despite Ms Lennon being trained and applying all of the skills she had learnt
‘Sam pulled over straight away. She is a first aid officer – her sister is also a nurse. She knew what to do in that situation. She did everything she could.
‘Imogen even bit her hand when she tried to get the frankfurt out of her throat.’
The GoFundMe plea has so far raised more than $28,000.
Despite the cruel taunts, Ms Harrison said her ‘strong, brave’ friend knew she did everything she could to save Imogen, who was due to start kindergarten this week.
Just seven days before death, the ‘loud and energetic’ little girl, who lived with a hearing impairment, was fitted with her first hearing aid.
It was the first time she had ever heard her own voice.
‘She put it in, and she said “Is that my voice mummy?”,’ Ms Harrison recalled.
‘And her mum said: “Yes, yes it is”.’
Instead of getting ready for her first year of school, Imogen’s devastated family faced the daunting task of laying her to rest at the local church on Saturday.
Her older brothers Bailey and Hayden held hands and were comforted by friends as they said their last farewell.
Ms Harrison said it was devastating to see the five-year-old’s small, white coffin adorned with pink flowers and cowgirl boots loaded into the back of a hearse.
‘Imogen was meant to start kindergarten this year,’ she said.
Tamara Harrison (left) and Bec Haddow (right) comfort Samantha Lennon at Imogen’s funeral
Imogen was farewelled by loved ones at St Edward’s Catholic Church (pictured) on Saturday
Imogen’s older brothers Bailey (left) and Hayden (right) comforted each other at their sister’s funeral
‘She never got to live her life.
‘Something like that shouldn’t have happened.’
Ms Harrison is now working alongside the Lennons to set up a foundation in Imogen’s honour to ensure no one else feels the pain they are experiencing.
Ms Harrison, a nurse who works with children, said she was shocked to recently learn of an American-made airway clearance device, called the LifeVac, that is available for sale in Australia.
She said she and other colleagues who have completed first aid training had never heard of the device – which has been approved by the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods – despite its potential life-saving benefits.
As part of the foundation, Ms Harrison and the Lennons are seeking to raise awareness about the LifeVac, have it made readily available to the public, and increase education about choking hazards for both parents and children.
The LifeVac is a portable suction apparatus which features a mask attached to a plunge-like lever.
In an emergency, the plunge is pushed down toward the victim’s face then pulled upwards to create a vacuum effect to dislodge anything blocking the airway.
Her coffin was adorned with pink flowers, cowgirl boots, a pink ‘Ringers Western’ snapback cap and pictures of butterflies and unicorns
The service pamphlet was filled with photos of Imogen and her loved ones together during happier times
According to statistics released by LifeVac on Tuesday, the medical device has so far saved 657 lives, including 395 children, since its release in 2012.
Ms Harrison said rolling out the medical device in first-aid kits was crucial, as was the need for parents to reinforce the importance of chewing food to children.
Ms Harrison said she only recently learnt about the LifeVac (pictured), an American-made device used to clear airways
The Lennons, who Ms Harrison described as ‘kind-hearted’ dairy farmers, told her if they manage to save just one person from the same fate as their daughter, they will have made the world a better place.
The family have received some donation offers from members of their tight-knit community to help launch the foundation, but Ms Harrison said they were seeking further sponsorship.
As the family learns to live without their little girl, Ms Harrison said they have already made plans for what would have been Imogen’s sixth birthday.
‘For her birthday this year, Imogen wanted to go bowling,’ she said.
‘So on May 24, that is what they will all be doing.’
The LifeVac works by creating a vacuum to pull blockages out of airways