Caravan tragedy was caused by heater

TWO young children died after the electric heater in their caravan caught fire, an inquest heard.Rodney Smith, 11, and his two-year-old brother Ben were asleep, along with their other brother John, nine, on April 10 when fire swept through their home.

By Danielle Nuttall

TWO young children died after the electric heater in their caravan caught fire, an inquest heard.

Rodney Smith, 11, and his two-year-old brother Ben were asleep, along with their other brother John, nine, on April 10 when fire swept through their home.

John woke up after hearing crackling noises and saw smoke pouring through the caravan. He managed to escape outside but his brothers perished in the fire.


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An inquest heard yesterday how the children's mother Caroline had left the caravan, based at the West Meadows Caravan Park in Ipswich, to pick up her husband Rodney from the Inkerman pub in Norwich Road.

The mother asked her parents Janet and Edward Loveridge, who lived in a caravan nearby, to keep an eye on her sleeping children when she left.

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But while Mrs Smith had gone to collect her husband, Mrs Loveridge had looked out of her window to see what she thought was conifer trees alight shortly after midnight.

But when she emerged from her home she realised it was actually Mrs Smith's plot that was alight and rushed to the scene with her husband.

The couple tried to enter the caravan but both were beaten back by flames, the inquest at Endeavour House in Ipswich heard. The fire service arrived and extinguished the blaze but they were unable to save the two brothers.

A post mortem examination found Rodney had died from inhalation of fire fumes while Ben had died as a result of severe burns and inhalation of fumes.

Although a smoke alarm had been fitted inside the caravan, the inquest heard that it did not have any batteries.

The cause of fire was believed to be the electrical heater inside the van, which was on the highest heat setting. The inquest heard that it was possible the air stream had become blocked somehow, causing it to overheat.

In recording a verdict of accidental death, Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean said: "Very clearly, we need, all of us, to take precautions when using these sorts of heaters. The importance of smoke alarms is implicit in the report of the fire and rescue service.

"It's very hard to think of anything more tragic than the loss of two young lives in these circumstances."

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