Failed freezer blamed for fire that killed mother and five children

 

A house fire that caused the death of a mother and her five children last year was caused when a freezer failed, a coroner has found.

Muna Elmufatish, 41, daughters Hanin Kua, 14, Basma, 13, Amal, nine, and sons Mustafa, five, and Yehya, two, died in the fire in September last year.

The inquest into their deaths at North London Coroner's Court in Barnet heard that the family were all asleep when the blaze engulfed their home in the early hours of September 24, 2011.

Coroner Andrew Walker found that all five died as a result of "inhalation of fire fumes".

Issuing a narrative verdict he said: "The fire started when a capacitor adjacent to a compressor in a compartment in a freezer failed and caught fire.

"The freezer was manufactured at time when the housing to the compressor and capacitor had been changed from a pressed steel to a plastic housing.

"Had the compressor been housed in a pressed steel compartment it is likely the fire would not have reached the insulation.

"The fire did reach the insulation and was fuelled by it - it spread upstairs where the family were."

Mr Walker also said that Muna Elmufatish had tried to save her children after she was woken by the fire.

Only her husband Bassam Kua and his daughter Nur, 17, escaped the property in Sonia Gardens, Neasden, and they were treated in hospital.

Bassam Kua, 52, braved the fire as he tried to save his family.

Mr Walker said the loss to the remaining family member must be "unbearable".

"My thoughts are with members of the family at this time," he said.

No family members were present at the inquest today.

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Steve Turek said the fire was an "absolutely tragic incident".

"The fire in Sonia Gardens last September is the worst that the London Fire Brigade has attended in over a decade," Mr Turek said.

"For any firefighter, however experienced, being called to a fatal fire is difficult and this incident was particularly harrowing, with six people, including five children losing their lives.

"For us at London Fire Brigade, one of the most important things that can come out of this very sad incident is to focus people's minds on how they can make their homes safer from fire and what they would do in the event of a fire.

"Today our thoughts remain with the family and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible fire."

Lawyer for the family Lucy O'Brien said: "The Kua family would like to express their thanks to their friends, neighbours and community for the support and kindness that they have received following this devastating incident,"

Ms O'Brien told reporters outside the court: "They would particularly like to thank the London Fire Brigade both for their assistance on the night of the fire and throughout the subsequent investigation.

"The inquest process has been difficult for all involved but the family is satisfied with the verdict.

"The coroner has confirmed that he will be issuing a report to various industry bodies regarding the materials used to house these types of capacitor with the intention of alerting the industry to the risk and to reduce the likelihood of this kind of tragedy ever happening again.

"Today our thoughts remain with the Kua family as they continue to come to terms with this tragedy."

PA

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