10-month-old dies at North Carolina daycare after choking on pine cone

RALEIGH, North Carolina -- Police in North Carolina are investigating after they said a 10-month-old baby choked to death on a pine cone.

Authorities said it happened just before 11 a.m. on Wednesday at the A Hug A Day Daycare, which is run out of a home on Adcox Place in Raleigh.

Family members identified the 10-month-old boy as Areon Ellington.

One of the baby's family members told sister station ABC11 on Facebook, "This baby had a piece of pine cone in his mouth and it blocked his air passage."

The baby's death was ruled accidental.

State license records show the daycare has three out of five 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.

Antoinette Rochelle is listed as the daycare's owner, and her 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.

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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