Four Children Die In House Fire After Parents Fall Asleep While Smoking In Bed

Four Children Die In House Fire After Parents Fall Asleep While Smoking In Bed

The inquest revealed that the children died from "fumes from fire caused by [an] unextinguished cigarette" on the bed in the parent's bedroom.

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Trigger warning: This story contains details of negligence that readers may find disturbing 

A recent inquest has heard that four children, aged three, four, six, and eight, died in a preventable house fire, after their parents, who were smoking while in bed, fell asleep. As per Daily Mail, Riley John Holt, eight, Keegan Jonathan Unitt, six, Tilly Rose Unitt, four, and Olly Unitt, three, died after a fire broke out at their family home in Stafford, Staffordshire, in February last year. Andrew Haigh, the South Staffordshire Coroner, was informed that a glass object, consistent with that of an ashtray, was found melted into the spring mattress at their home after the fire engulfed the whole place. 



On suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence, Natalie Unitt, 26, and her partner Chris Moulton, 30 were held by the police. However, in August, it was announced by the Crown Prosecution Service that no further action would be taken. Unitt, during the inquest, said that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and thus, could not remember what she did after the fire broke out. Moulton, the father of three of the children, also gave evidence at the inquest, saying he believed that the fire had started on a landing. The inquest revealed that the children died from "fumes from fire caused by [an] unextinguished cigarette" on the bed in the parent's bedroom.



The hearing in Stafford also mentioned that the parents were previously warned by social workers about smoking indoors. However, both parents denied the blaze started in the bedroom at the house. Despite their denial, fire investigator Leigh Richards concluded that the blaze "was caused by carelessness with cigarettes" in the bedroom. "Unitt had been advised not to smoke in the property but there is substantial evidence of them continuing to do so," said Coroner Andrew Haig. "It's understandable they tried to play down the significance of this bearing in mind what has happened."



"Moulton suggested that the fire may have been caused where the boiler is on the landing on the property. I do not accept that. I have heard the expert evidence and Mr. Richards has clearly indicated why the boiler is not the cause of this fire. He has properly explained his reasons for his decision as to the cause of the fire. That was that the fire started as a result of a cigarette on the bedding in the main bedroom. Of significant note ... within the recess of the left-hand (window) casement when looking from inside the lounge, there was a single discarded cigarette butt."



"That had not been stubbed out in my opinion and had been left to burn on its own. There was evidence within the lounge of a number of cigarettes that littered the carpet against the skirting boards." The fire raged through the family home just after 2.40 a.m. on February 2nd, last year. The coroner added that Moulton leaped out from the first-floor window with their youngest child, who was then two years old. Unitt exited the home via the front door. Both parents, who are still together, say they can't remember anything about the aftermath of the blaze. Moulton, who suffered substantial burns resulting in a skin graft, believed the fire started on the landing near a boiler.



Lee Richards, a fire officer with West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, debunked Moulton's statement, saying there was no evidence that an electrical fault or gas supply fault triggered the blaze. Richards said the accounts of the parents "was inconsistent with each others' and that on his 'interpretation of the scene the fire started in their bedroom." He said: "The fire in my opinion developed within the bedroom. As the fire developed, the room went into full flashover, where everything within the room becomes involved in fire. Having the windows open aided ventilation to the fire and allowed the fire to grow greatly and spread outside the compartment."



Richards added that several cigarette butts were found carelessly discarded in the house. He said there were "in excess of 100 cigarettes" found outside a door to the garden and "discarded butts below the lounge window, bedroom window and within the undergrowth of the garden." The Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against the couple, the inquest heard. "In December of last year, we submitted an advice file to them," the Det Insp Lyford told the court. "This was considered by CPS and they considered several offenses and ultimately deemed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Natalie or Christopher in relation to this matter."




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