The tragic death of a toddler was ‘an accident waiting to happen’, an inquest has head.
Two-year-old Bram Radcliffe was killed after a “dangerous” marble fireplace collapsed on top of him, causing catastrophic head injuries.
The youngster was watching cartoons when the 60kg fixture, which was said to have been “hanging by a thread”, fell on him on the morning of November 8 2017.
Bradford Coroner’s Court heard on Friday how the boy’s mother, Amy Johnson, had left him alone in the living room of their home on Banks Road, Golcar, West Yorkshire, for just a minute, before hearing a “loud bang”.
She rushed back into the room, only to see her son lying lifelessly on the ground, surrounded by parts from the collapsed fireplace, with a coroner describing this as the “most distressing circumstance imaginable”.
Witnesses told how Ms Johnson was left “in a state of shock” in the aftermath of the incident, with Bram being rushed to the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and declared dead from severe head injuries at around 8.20am on the same day.
In a statement that was read in court, Ms Johnson described Bram as a “happy, well mannered boy”, saying: “He would always say his pleases and thank yous.”
Mr Kaye added: “I was building a relationship with Bram, and it was only getting better.”
Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Martin Fleming described the fireplace installation as “sub-standard and dangerous”.
The coroner added: “I can only suggest that it was installed either by a cowboy or a cowboy firm, or a DIY enthusiast.”
The inquest heard how the coal fire was decorated with a marble surround, which was kept in place by four brackets which were glued to the fixture, and kept in place by being screwed into plasterboard.
Chairman of the Stone Federation of Great Britain’s technical committee, David Richardson, told the inquest: “This would have been a very dangerous situation, and was probably an accident waiting to happen, unfortunately.
“If you could have a case study in how not to do it, this would have been the perfect example.”
He added that fireplace surrounds are not subject to the same strict regulations as the fires themselves, but said that the installation was unlikely to have been done by a professional.
Mr Richardson said that it was feasible that Bram had touched the fireplace’s mantelpiece prior to it falling down, saying: “I would suggest that this level of fitting was so inadequate that the force that would have been exerted through body weight alone would have been enough to dislodge it.”
In his conclusions, the coroner said that he would be writing to the relevant health and safety authorities in a bid to prevent similar tragedies from occurring.
The court heard how the property where the incident occurred was owned by Ryan Kaye, Ms Johnson’s partner, who purchased it in March 2017.
In a statement that was read to the court, he explained how he had not moved the fireplace since moving in, but had noticed it wobble slightly when he touched it days before Bram’s death, adding that he had been due to get his joiner father to inspect it.
The inquest was told that the fireplace had been installed back in 2001, with Detective Sergeant Peter Usher, who led the investigation into the incident, explaining how police had been unable to trace details of the person or firm that fitted it.
Witnesses explained how the fireplace had not been moved in the 16 years since then, with none of the previous occupants expressing any concerns about its safety.