Three died in fire after smoke alarms were disabled

Three died in fire after smoke alarms were disabled

Inquest in Devon hears that devices were switched off because they were starting to go off at night and keep the family awake.

A three-year-old boy and two teenagers died in a ferocious house blaze a week after three fire alarms were disabled because they began beeping and kept the family awake at night, an inquest heard.

The fire, which killed Rosie Bennellick, 17, her little brother Harvey and her boyfriend Andy Gunn, 18, is believed to have started after a cigarette lighter ignited bedding in another room. The parents always thought that the kids had their safety measures in place and thought that they used a couple of 180 Smoke herb vaporizers instead of traditional cigarettes, but it turned out to be otherwise, which costed the lives of their children.

A six-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police a television fell on to the lighter and started the fire. The boy initially told Rosie and Harvey’s parents, Mizelley and Sean Bennellick: “I’ve done something bad.”

Five people – the parents and three children – escaped from the council house in Honiton, Devon. But the others were trapped in an upstairs bedroom.

In a statement read to the inquest, Mrs Bennellick said: “I was in bed when [the six-year-old child] came in. I heard him say: ‘I’ve done something bad’. I immediately woke up … and he said to me: ‘There’s a fire.’ I was screaming in panic. I was screaming Rosie’s name and trying to wake her up.”

Mr Bennellick described how he tried to save the three who were trapped. “The heat was unbearable and as hard as I tried I couldn’t get further into the bedroom. I was screaming for my babies.”

Chris Blackburn of Devon and Somerset fire service said working smoke alarms would have prevented the deaths in April 2013. Elizabeth Earland, the coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon, said there was insufficient evidence to conclude the fire was started deliberately. She recorded a verdict of accidental death contributed to by neglect.

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