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Coroner rules Whirlpool freezer caused Neasden house fire that killed mother and her five children

PUBLISHED: 17:01 24 October 2012 | UPDATED: 11:00 25 October 2012

The fire in Sonia Gardens was the worst in London in a decade (credit: PA/Anthony Devlin)

The fire in Sonia Gardens was the worst in London in a decade (credit: PA/Anthony Devlin)

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Capacitor in appliance failed and caught alight resulting in worse domestic blaze in London for a decade

A fire which caused the death of a mother and five of her children after it tore through their home in Neasden was caused by a fault in a chest freezer, an inquest has ruled.

Bassam Kua, 52, lost his wife Muna Elmufatish 41, daughters Hanin Kua, 14, Basma 13, Amal, nine, and sons Yeha, two, and Mustafa, five, in the fire in Sonia Gardens, in September 24 last year.

He and 17-year-old daughter Nur, were the only two to survive the blaze, described by London Fire Brigade (LFB) as “the worst in a decade”. Coroner Andrew Walker found that all five died as a result of “inhalation of fire fumes” at the inquest, which concluded today (Wednesday) at North London Coroner’s court.

He ruled that a capacitor inside the freezer, a Whirlpool brand, bought in 2002 at an independent shop, failed and caught fire.

The fire then spread to an adjacent compressor, housed in plastic, and as a result the fire was fuelled and spread through the house.

He said: “The freezer was manufactured at time when the housing to the compressor and capacitor had been changed from 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 court also heard how the children’s mother Muna had returned upstairs to try to save them.

Mr Kua earlier told the court how he saw flames ‘higher than his head’ emanating from the back of the freezer and that he had ran up and down the stairs numerous times in his attempts to save his family.

LFB assistant commissioner Steve Turek said the fire was an “absolutely tragic incident”.

He said: “For any firefighter, however experienced, being called to a fatal fire is difficult and this incident was particularly harrowing. “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.”

Whirlpool statement

We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Kua and his family for their loss in this incident.

While we respect the court’s finding, our tests have consistently indicated that the product and its component parts are safe, and we have been unable to find a link between the freezer in question and cause of the fire.

Whirlpool chest freezers have an excellent safety record, with a very small number of reported incidents of any kind among approximately 36 million freezers produced in our factories in Europe over the last 10 years.

In our view, the outcome of the inquest fails to sufficiently recognise the historic data concerning the safety of the freezer model and component part and the specific test evidence in this case showing that an external source was as likely a source for the cause of the fire.

Coroner Walker added: “To lose one member of your family is bad enough but to lose so many must be unbearable, I express my deepest condolences to the remaining family.”

Coroner Walker also confirmed he would be issuing a report to various industry bodies regarding the materials used to house types of capacitor with the intention of alerting the industry to risks and to reduce the likelihood of this kind of tragedy ever happening again.

Verdict: Narrative.

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