A “CARELESSLY discarded” cigarette fell on to school uniforms and triggered the inferno which claimed the lives of three young children, an inquest heard.
Single mum Samantha Hudson, 27, is still in hospital suffering from serious brain damage five months on from the fire which killed her children, William Beal, nine, Antony John Fothergill, five, and three-year-old Maddie Hudson.
The childrens’ inquest in Hull heard fire investigators concluded that a carelessly discarded cigarette fell on to a pile of school uniforms close to the armchair, causing the fatal blaze.
Samantha was woken by the house’s smoke alarm and dashed upstairs to her children. Firefighters later found the family huddled together in a bedroom, all unconscious.
Neighbours and paramedics worked on the family in the street after they were brought out by firefighters. Despite not having any burns, none of the children showed any signs of life and were pronounced dead in the early hours of November 12 at Scarborough Hospital.
Their mother survived but with devastating injuries. She spent months in hospital before being moved to a rehabilitation unit in Goole, where her treatment continues.
Forensic investigation officer Steve Henry said: “I concluded that a carelessly discarded cigarette is the most likely cause of this fire. It is likely to have fallen on to the childrens’ clothing which was near the armchair and ignited the clothing.
“At this time I believe Samantha was asleep until being woken either by the fire or the smoke alarm. Samantha gathered them together in a second floor bedroom furthest away from the fire. It was in this room that the firefighters found the family huddled together.”
The inquest heard that Samantha had begun drinking at her sister’s birthday party in Bridlington at 12.30pm on November 11 last year. Later she went to several pubs while her brother Mark looked after the children- and returned at 11pm to continue drinking cans of Foster’s and black vodka shots with Mark and friend David Hall. The three also had a cigarette each and the mum was described as “tipsy”. The two men left and it is thought Samantha then fell asleep on the floor against an armchair in the living room.
Det Sgt Steve Shanks of Humberside Police investigated the fire and soon ruled out any suspicious circumstances.
Fire investigators believe the cigarette could have been smouldering for up to 20 minutes before taking hold of the living room and triggering the smoke alarm. They were unable to say whose cigarette triggered the fire.
He added: “The seat of the fire was to the left of the armchair Samantha was leant against. Once the burning started, I believe the fire would then very quickly have spread to the curtains, then involve the TV and wooden unit it was placed on.”
Coroner Geoffrey Saul recorded a verdict of accidental death for all three children. He told their devastated grandmother Sharon Hudson: “The loss of these three very young children can only be described as a tragedy. It is a word often used but it is the only word that can be used in these circumstances.
“These are very difficult occasions, the evidence can be harrowing and it must be very difficult to bear.”