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Coroner blames defective tumble dryer for fatal house fire

Published 08/08/2016

The blaze was already out by the time fire crews arrived
The blaze was already out by the time fire crews arrived

A defective tumble dryer caused a house fire that killed a mother of two in her bedroom, a coroner has ruled.

Mishell Moloney was discovered dead under a duvet on the bedroom floor by her daughter and sister on February 7 after they smashed their way through a rear patio door to get in.

The 49-year-old was found to have died after being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes and smoke caused by a small fire in the tumble dryer in the downstairs kitchen.

Birmingham Coroner's Court heard that dryer manufacturer Beko had received reports of 20 previous fires in the same model, but none had the defect thought to have caused the blaze that killed Ms Moloney.

Recording a narrative verdict, Emma Brown, area coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said: "It's my conclusion Mishell's death was due to smoke inhalation from a fire that was caused by the Beko tumble dryer within her kitchen.

"The source within the tumble dryer was the printed control board (PCB).

"It's not possible to identify the nature of the defect which caused the fire."

She added: "Mishell was aware of a problem with the tumble dryer before the fire because she turned the machine off. She obviously thought she'd dealt with it and went to bed intending to sort it subsequently."

Ms Moloney, who bought the appliance in October 2012, had been home alone on the night of February 6 and texted family just before midnight.

It was the last time relatives heard from her, and shortly after 4pm the next day they found Ms Moloney's window blinds blackened with soot, and forced their way in.

An investigation at the house in Coriander Close, Rubery, Birmingham, found the fire started in or around the area where the dryer's PCB was.

Beko said the PCB had never been the identified cause of any blazes traced to the 8kg DCS 85W, the model Ms Moloney had.

The company's director of quality Andrew Mullen said: "In virtually all cases it has been the run capacitor - I can't think of any cases that weren't."

Mr Mullen said a decision not to recall the model was taken after a risk assessment and consultation with trading standards.

He revealed two smaller 6kg and 7kg models had been recalled because of 100 incidents of reported faults with the capacitor, "within the first three months".

Asked by the coroner why Beko had not decided to recall the larger model, he said: "We looked at the number of incidents against sales, the severity of the incidents and circumstances, and in all those assessments they were all incidents that happened within 10 or 20 minutes of the tumble dryer being used.

"Nearly all those were when the tumble dryer was in unheated buildings such as a shed or outhouse. In those cases the risk of injury was low."

He added the model was discontinued last year "as part of a range change".

Mr Mullen said: "This is a very tragic incident but it's an isolated incident which, despite the fact we know on the balance of probabilities it was caused by the tumble driver, we still don't know what caused it."

After the hearing, Ms Moloney's daughter Jodie said: "My mum was quite simply the best mum my brother Joshua and I could have asked for and losing her was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss her.

"Since she passed away there has been a void in my life that will never be filled."

The family's lawyer Paul Tapner, of Slater and Gordon, said: "This is a tragic case that has seen a mother and grandmother taken early from her loved ones.

"Mishell's death has hit her family hard and they need answers from the manufacturer of the tumble dryer where the fire that claimed her life started. It is only then that they will be able to move on with their lives."

After the inquest, Mr Mullen said: "Safety is our highest priority and we sincerely regret any incident linked to one of our products. The product involved in this incident remains completely safe for use, meeting and exceeding all European standards."

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