Raleigh daycare license temporarily suspended after 10-month-old choked to death on pine cone

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A 10-month-old accidentally choked on a pine cone at a home daycare Wednesday, according to Raleigh Police Department.

It happened just before 11 a.m. at the A Hug A Day Daycare, which is run out of a home on Adcox Place in the Fox Hollow neighborhood.

Family members identified the 10-month-old boy as Areon Ellington. A family member messaged ABC11 saying, "this baby had a piece of pine cone in his mouth and it blocked his air passage."

Raleigh police ruled Ellington's death an accident, but said the investigation into his death was still open.

A call placed from the home to 911 alerted authorities to the problem.

"Hurry, hurry, hurry," the caller can be heard telling the 911 dispatcher.

But by the time first responders arrived, it was too late to save Ellington.

Nobody at A Hug A Day Daycare answered ABC11 requests for comment Wednesday. On Thursday, a young man opened the door and let ABC11's Elaina Athans inside.

Within seconds of stepping into the home, the invitation was rescinded from someone else inside.

State license records show the daycare has 3 out of 5 stars. It has been in operation since 2003, and the state has never had to take corrective action against the daycare.
In addition, the state reports it made five unannounced visits to the daycare over the last three years. Some violations were noted during three of those visits. The violations included staff caring for more children than legally allowed, children having access to hazardous items, and children not being visually checked every 15 minutes as required by law.

Antoinette Rochelle is listed as the daycare's owner. ABC11 was unable to get in contact with her at her home or through phone calls.

Rochelle's neighbors said she is a good woman who runs a good daycare. They said they had not heard of any prior problems at the daycare.

The Department of Health and Human Services released this statement Thursday afternoon:

It's a tragedy any time a child dies. Our hearts go out to the family. The Division of Child Development and Early Education is aware of the fatality at A Hug A Day Care and is considering next steps. By law, we cannot comment on investigations.

The department has now issued a temporary license suspension for the daycare.

DCDEE makes every effort to provide the information parents need to make the best possible child care choices for their children, and the division provides many online resources specifically for parents looking for child care. There is information here about how to contact DCDEE, how to choose quality child care, filing complaints, how the star-rating system works, county resources, child care costs, etc. Parents can also search for information on specific facilities through the Child Care Facility Search site.

Child care homes and facilities that meet licensing requirements, must be go through the application process to become a licensed child care program. Information on licensing requirements and guidelines can be found here.
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