NC Family Grieves after 10-Month-Old Baby Chokes on Pine Cone & Dies at Daycare

A North Carolina family is thrown into mourning after their ten-month-old son died on Wednesday from choking on a pine cone at his daycare.

When Helena Harris dropped off her grandson, Areon Ellington, at the “A Hug A Day Care” in south Raleigh last week, she had no inkling what tragedy lay a few hours ahead.

"The daycare lady called me and told me that I needed to get to the daycare because Areon was choking on something," Harris told WRAL.

The agency further confirmed to WRAL that they notified the daycare operator, Antoinette Rochelle, of the action

According to ABC 11, Raleigh police said the boy’s death was an accident, but authorities are investigating the incident.

A heartbroken Harris said to WRAL:

“He was about to have his one-year-old birthday. My grandbaby is gone — somebody needs to be responsible for what happened to him. …He was my heart, my heart. He was our get up and go. He was, through our struggles, what was bonding us together.”

In a statement to PEOPLE, the state Department of Health and Human Services described Areon’s death as a “tragedy” while disclosing that the agency has issued a summary suspension of the daycare’s license while they investigate the incident.

'She's been in the business for a long time, and like I'm saying, this is negligence.'

The agency further confirmed to WRAL that they notified the daycare operator, Antoinette Rochelle, of the action in a hand-delivered letter.

Tamara Barnes, the assistant director of the Regulatory Services Section, reportedly wrote in a letter to Rochelle:

"This action is based on the agency's findings that the public health, safety or welfare requires emergency action. You must inform all your parents of enrolled children that the facility will close at the end of business today.”

Online records, according to PEOPLE, reveal that regulators have issued past violations against the daycare center.

There have been three of such in the last three years with one as recently as January when an inspector found seven children under the age of 2, exceeding the limit of five, reported WRAL.

Harris is not sure the center should consider having their license restored after what happened to her grandson.

“If you can no longer handle being a daycare provider, you need to get out of the business," she said. "She's been in the business for a long time, and like I'm saying, this is negligence. He shouldn't have been outside as hot as it was."

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Areon Ellington during this difficult time.

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