The food editor of the Orange County Register died Thursday night after she collapsed and had difficulty breathing during dinner at an Oxnard restaurant.
Jo Ann Miner, 47, of Fullerton was pronounced dead at St. John's Hospital, where she was taken after paramedics attempted to revive her at Castagnola's restaurant, Oxnard Fire Marshal Terry McAnally said.
The official cause of death was "aspiration of gastric contents," said Margot Martin, an investigator with the Ventura County coroner's office.
Mrs. Miner and other members of the media were at the restaurant Thursday night for a promotional event for Oxnard's upcoming Strawberry Festival. None of the other media representatives at the dinner became ill, according to Sid French, supervising sanitarian with the Ventura County Environmental Health Department.
Suffered From Asthma
Miner's husband, Allan, said he believes his wife fell ill as a result of a food allergy. He said his wife, who suffered from asthma, experienced a similar episode of respiratory arrest at their Fullerton home in December, 1984, after eating at a Thai restaurant. She recovered when he performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until paramedics arrived and treated her with oxygen, he said.
Ventura County coroner's officials could not confirm that a food allergy caused the collapse, but toxicological studies are being conducted. Further, the county's Environmental Health Department, which oversees restaurant food safety, will investigate whether the attack was food-related, a department spokesman said.
Miner said his wife had been eating a dish of shellfish, when she left to spend a few minutes in the restroom. She returned and asked him for her inhaler, which helps her to breathe more easily, he said. Suddenly she slumped in her chair and her head fell backwards, Miner said.
Fire Marshal McAnally said Mrs. Miner "apparently started choking and had difficulty breathing." Two firefighters were in the restaurant and immediately attempted to revive her. Rescue equipment arrived within a couple of minutes, and paramedics were on the scene within about four minutes, he said.
They performed the Heimlich maneuver, a technique which can dislodge food from a choking person's throat, and did dislodge some food but not enough to indicate that she had choked, he said.
Miner said he believes that the Oxnard paramedics did not respond properly to the problem. He said he advised the paramedics to put a breathing tube down his wife's trachea, as the Fullerton paramedics had done, but a paramedic responded that they did not have a tube long enough.
"I think that if she had been handled properly by someone, she would have had a very good chance to survive," Miner said.
McAnally and other fire officials could not be reached late Friday to respond to Miner's comments.
Register Editor N. Christian Anderson said the staff was "shocked and saddened" by Mrs. Miner's death.
"We share our grief with her husband, Allan, and her family . . . . Far beyond her loss as a writer will be her loss to us as a friend," he said.
Winner of Several Awards
Mrs. Miner joined the Register in 1976 as a feature writer and assistant to the food editor and was promoted to food editor in February, 1979.
She was the winner of several Golden Carnation awards, a competition for excellence in nutrition writing. She also was author of a popular cookbook entitled "A Taste of Orange County--An Easy Guide to Good Eating."
"Jo Ann had given so much to the Register and its readers . . . . Indeed, her work was recognized far beyond Orange County, as evidenced by the many awards she had won from her peers," Anderson said.
"Just Thursday, Jo Ann and I had talked with a newspaper feature syndicate about offering her writing to other newspapers. That would have been a fine tribute to her professionalism," he said.
Mrs. Miner was born in Denver and grew up in Long Beach. She moved to Orange County in 1968 and worked as a group insurance auditor for Rockwell International for 13 years. She returned to college in 1974 and obtained a bachelor's degree in communications two years later.
She is survived by her husband and five children, Steve, Julie, Mindy, Karen and Kathi; her brother, Don Humphreys; her mother and stepfather, Janice and Duncan McIntosh; her father and stepmother, Philip and Eleanor Humphreys, and her father-in-law and mother-in-law, Gordon and Roberna Miner.
Funeral arrangements are pending. The family has suggested that memorial contributions be sent to Register Charities, P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, Calif. 92711.