State suspends license of Raleigh day care where 10-month-old baby choked on pine cone

The state has suspended the operating license of a Raleigh day care where officials say a 10-month-old baby choked on a pine cone and died Wednesday.

The incident happened at A Hug A Day Daycare, a home child-care business on Adcox Place south of downtown Raleigh, according to state records. Efforts to reach Antoinette Rochelle, who is listed as the primary owner, were unsuccessful.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services sent a hand-delivered letter signed by Assistant Director Tamara Barnes to Rochelle saying the day care was to be closed Thursday and that all parents with enrolled children must be notified.

“The Division of Child Development and Early Education is aware of the fatality at A Hug A Day Care and is considering next steps,” according a Thursday news release. “By law, we cannot comment on investigations.”

The baby boy, identified as Areon Ellington,died after choking on a pine cone, reported ABC11, The News & Observer’s media partner.

In a 911 call released Thursday by Raleigh police, an unidentified woman frantically implores emergency workers to “hurry, hurry, hurry.”

The call came in about 10:39 a.m. Wednesday, with officers arriving about 10 minutes later, according to Laura Hourigan, a Raleigh police spokeswoman.

“A little baby is choking,” an unidentified man tells the 911 dispatcher.

Police said a preliminary investigation indicated the boy’s death was an accident.

“Presently, there are no indications that the call involved anything other than a deceased-person case” involving a 10-month-old child, Hourigan said. “As always, final determinations will be made from the findings of thorough follow-up work.”

Previous violations corrected

State inspectors have visited A Hug A Day Daycare five times since 2016, according to the DHHS website.

During unannounced visits in 2016 and 2018, the state found violations, according to the N.C. Division of Child Development and Early Education. The violations, which had been listed on the state website, have been removed since the daycare’s license was suspended.

This year, listed violations, also no longer online, included failure to record checks on sleeping babies, exceeding the allowed number of children and improper storage of “potentially hazardous” power tools and chemicals. The state says the provider’s letter and a follow-up visit confirmed the violations were fixed.

The News & Observer called and emailed the day care Thursday afternoon but was unable to reach anyone for comment.