BUFFALO, NY — A 17-year-old girl died after an operation to remove a giant hairball from her stomach, the result of her habit of chewing her hair, an investigation has found.

Her hairball filled the entire stomach cavity.

Rachel Haigh was rushed to Conquest Hospital in Hastings in southeast England after complaining of stomach pains. While recovering from surgery, she suffered internal bleeding and died Jan. 1.

East Sussex coroner Alan Craze ruled Thursday that the death was accidental. Because Rachel was studying hairdressing, however, he first called in an expert to ensure the hair was hers. Pathologist Dr. Nera Patel said the hairball was 1 foot long, 10 inches wide and 4 inches thick.

"It was closely compacted and intertwined in the shape of a rugby ball," Patel said. "No one in our medical team had seen anything like it."

Dr. Annabel Moore, who carried out the operation, said the hairball filled the entire stomach cavity.

The girl's mother, Norma Haigh, testified she thought her daughter had grown out of her hair-chewing phase.

[Thanks to Mike Villers for this contribution.]