Neasden fire father saw flames ‘higher than his head’ at the back of Whirlpool freezer

Bassam Kua told an inquest he saw appliance alight in the hallway of his home in Sonia Gardens

A father who survived a killer fire in his Neasden home saw flames ‘higher than his head’ emanating from the back of a chest freezer in the hallway.

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

The 51-year-old, who is plagued by nightmares, and his 16-year-old daughter Nur were the only two to survive the blaze.

An inquest into the deaths opened at North London Coroner’s Court today (Monday).

Mr Kua said the Whirlpool freezer was plugged into a double socket, alongside a plug for a cordless telephone.

He told the inquest he had bought the freezer, which was kept in the hallway, in 2002 and never had any problems with it.

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Asked if he had made any alterations to the freezer, he said he had not.

He added: “It’s not my job.”

Asked if he had any problems with it, he said: “Not at all. It was working fine.”

Andrew Vaughan-Davies, a fire scene investigator for the London Fire Brigade, told the inquest an investigation found the chest freezer was a Whirlpool model.

He said certain steel and plastic components, including the lining for the lid, the lining of a food compartment, a drainage hole and fixed dome feet, led him and his colleagues to believe the freezer chassis was a Whirlpool C0265W, which could be either the AFG524 or WCN9-1 model.

His evidence went against initial reports at the time of the incident that the manufacturer of the freezer was Beko.

The expert said a degraded capacitor, a circuitry component used in various electrical appliances, was the likely cause of the fire.

He told the inquest the part was ‘most probably’ manufactured by Inco.

Asked to explain what may have happened, he said a part of the capacitor made of polypropylene could have degraded over time, and the AC current running into it from the mains would have caused it to heat up to and become “like molten lava”

He said: “The capacitor would have likely carried on burning and lit other items around it.”

Dry debris, dust and lint that had built up in and around the appliance would have fuelled the fire.

Mr Vaughan-Davies told the inquest the insulation foam of fridge-freezers is highly flammable and can be ‘catastrophic’ if a fire reaches it.

“It’s the equivalent of having a bonfire in your home,” he said.

He told the inquest London Fire Brigade had found defective fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers had caused 191 fires in the last two years, and that defective Whirlpool appliances in particular were found to have caused around 22 fires in the last 12 years.

The fire is said to be the worst in London for a decade.

The inquest continues.

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