Working smoke alarm could have saved young boy

Mateusz Wlodarczyk
Mateusz Wlodarczyk

A seven-year-old boy died after suffocating on smoke during a house fire probably started by an electrical fault.

Mateusz Wlodarczyk was killed early on the morning of May 22 last year in a house fire in Edinburgh Road, Kettering.

The house in Edinburgh Road, Kettering, where Mateusz Wlodarczyk died

The house in Edinburgh Road, Kettering, where Mateusz Wlodarczyk died

The inquest into Mateusz’s death heard that his mother Monika was awake and preparing milk for Mateusz’s two-year-old brother Jason when she smelled smoke coming from a downstairs bedroom of the house the family shared with three lodgers.

She woke up one of the lodgers, who kicked open the locked door of the bedroom. This resulted in the house quickly filling with smoke, forcing everyone to flee.

But Mateusz was asleep in an upstairs room and no-one was able to reach him because of the thick, black smoke.

Firefighters rescued the youngster from the bedroom but he was later declared dead at Kettering General Hospital .

After the incident, neighbours and well-wishers left floral tributes outside the family’s home.

The inquest, held in Kettering on Thursday last week, was told the family had rented the house after arriving from Poland. They then sub-let a living room and two other bedrooms to other Polish workers.

In a statement Mateusz’s father, Tomasz Wlodarczyk, told the inquest he had been granted permission to sub-let the rooms by landlord Ajit Singh.

Mr Wlodarczyk had been at work when the fire happened.

However, Mr Singh, giving evidence, disputed that conversation had taken place.

Kettering Council environmental health officer Kate Flanagan said a home with three or more adults from two households living in the same property would mean the house would have been classified as multiple occupancy – meaning it would have to have a mains-powered smoke alarm system, heat detectors and fire doors.

Forensic investigator Eddie O’Neill told the inquest the fire had started in a downstairs bedroom occupied by one of the lodgers, who was also at work.

He had only one plug socket in his bedroom but had 11 appliances connected to it, using a network of connected multi-adapters.

Mr O’Neill said a faulty wire had likely caused the fire, although it had been impossible to establish the precise cause.

Ian O’Donovan, a fire investigation officer from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue, said in his opinion if the door to the bedroom where the fire started had been left closed all the family may have been able to escape.

He added: “Had priority been given to evacuation, it is my opinion that everyone would have been able to exit. Although it was not a fire door, it would have offered some protection.”

Mr O’Donovan said the home did have a smoke detector but the battery had been disconnected, and in his opinion if it had been working the family would have had sufficient time to evacuate.

Coroner Anne Pember said: “This was a house in multiple occupancy. However, no effective smoke detectors were in place, neither were fire doors fitted to the property. I accept the likely cause was an electrical fault due to the complex arrangements of adapters and plugs in one of the bedrooms.

“Sadly the fire caught hold and resulted in the tragic death of young Mateusz.”

She recorded a verdict of accidental death.