Faulty grill door led to gas deaths of Saltash house mates
A faulty grill which emitted dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide caused the deaths of two men, an inquest was told.
Richard Smith, aged 30, and Kevin Branton, aged 32, were found dead in their home at Woodlands Terrace, Saltash, on Saturday, December 13 2010.
A verdict of accidental death for both men was recorded by a jury at Truro County Hall yesterday.
Speaking at the inquest, gas engineer Steve Critchlow, who investigated the property after the deaths were discovered, said it was likely that the grill had been turned on by mistake after a pie was put in the oven.
Mr Critchlow said the Flavel Milano 50 grill had a seal circling the door which prevented oxygen from getting to the flames. This caused dangerous levels of the odourless and highly toxic gas carbon monoxide to spread throughout the house in just a few minutes.
Speaking on behalf of the two men's families, Richard Smith's father, Brian Smith, said: "Richard and Kevin had the rest of their lives ahead of them but their lives were tragically ended by something as simple as a grill door on a cooker.
"Kevin and Richard have left huge gaps in our hearts and for everyone who knew them we will miss them for everyday of our lives."
The cooker was purchased by Richard Smith's parents in December 2008 from Derry's Cooperative in Plymouth, the inquest heard.
In the two months before the appliance was bought, five other people in the UK had been killed by operating a grill with the door closed on appliances of the same model. "Testing of household appliances is not adequate," Mr Smith said.
"More time and money must be spent on making sure they are safe. Richard and Kevin are not the first to lose their lives in this way but hopefully they will be the last," he added.
Trading Standards officer Gary Webster said that in July 2010, the British testing standards had been modified to include tests on grills with the door closed.
Mr Webster said that 21,000 appliances across the UK were sold with the defect.
After discovering the problem the manufacturing company, Beko attempted to contact customers who had purchased a faulty grill.
Mr Webster said that over 80% of customers have been contacted.
The appliance can be made safe by a simple modification which involves removing part of the seal.
Mr Webster said: "In 2009, 10 542 units were in the process of being modified.
"There are approximately 10,000 units which have still not been modified across the UK."
Following the verdict, the families paid tribute to their loved ones.
Richard Smith, who worked as an administrative officer, was described by his father as "a very gentle and fun-loving person."
His brother Damien said: "He was happy-go-lucky."
Kevin Branton's mother Denise Wray said: "Kevin was a person who loved life. He loved working and loved to spend his money socialising with his friends.
"He will be missed by his family and all his friends every day."