A ‘CARELESSLY discarded’ cigarette was the most likely cause of a fire that killed three local children in Bridlington last year, an inquest into their death was told.
William Beal, nine, Antony John ‘AJ’ Fothergill, five, and three-year-old Maddie died of smoke inhalation from the fire, which began at their home on November 11, while their mother Samantha Hudson, now 28, was left with brain damage as a result of being starved of oxygen.
The family had moved to Bridlington from Fitzwilliam, where Ms Hudson had grown up, around a year before the blaze.
Coroner Geoffrey Saul returned a verdict of accidental death at the inquest, which was held at Hull Coroner’s Court last Wednesday and Thursday.
The inquest heard how Ms Hudson had been out drinking at her sister’s birthday party while the children were looked after by her brother, Mark Hudson.
She returned home with a friend, David Hall, and the three, including her brother, had a drink and a cigarette. The two men left and it is thought she then fell asleep on the floor against an armchair in the living room.
Forensic investigation officer Steve Henry told the hearing: “I concluded that a carelessly discarded cigarette is the most likely cause of this fire. It is likely to have fallen on to the children’s clothing, which was near the armchair, and ignited the clothing. At this time I believe Samantha was asleep until being woken either by the fire or the smoke alarm. Samantha gathered them together in a second floor bedroom furthest away from the fire. It was in this room that the firefighters found the family huddled together.”
Investigators were unable to say who the cigarette, which could have been smouldering for upto 20 minutes, belonged to.
The hearing heard that the first call to paramedics came at 11.53pm.
Experienced paramedic Simon Leeson was first on the scene. He choked back tears as he revealed the terrible sight that greeted him.
He said: “There were flames coming out of the downstairs window and heavy smoke reaching to the roof. The adult was showing signs of life so out of the four patients I decided Samantha was the one to be seen first. The children were not showing signs of life, Samantha had a pulse and her chance of survival was greater of the four.”
But Ms Hudson’s mother Sharon, 49, said her daughter’s quality of life was so poor it might have been better if she had not been rescued.
She said: “She will never be Samantha again. It just seems to me she should never have been brought back.”
Ms Hudson spent months in hospital before being recently moved to a rehabilitation centre. She was too ill to attend her children’s funeral.
Coroner Geoffrey Saul said: “The loss of these three very young children can only be described as a tragedy. It is a word often used but it is the only word that can be used in these circumstances.”