Child playing with lighter led to blaze tragedy

The house where Libby Hornsby died in a blaze. Pictures: Ross Parry Agency
The house where Libby Hornsby died in a blaze. Pictures: Ross Parry Agency
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A GIRL aged two died following a house fire started by another child playing with a cigarette lighter, an inquest heard.

Libby-Jayne Hornsby died from smoke inhalation from the blaze at her home in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, after flames ripped through the house while she was sleeping in a first-floor bedroom.

Libby Hornsby

Libby Hornsby

Libby-Jayne’s mother, Kelly Hambrey, had left a teenager to babysit while she was out practising with her majorette band when the fire started at about 7.20pm on October 17, last year.

The inquest heard there were five disposable cigarette lighters around the house, all within easy reach of children.

Another child – who cannot be named for legal reasons – picked up one of the lighters and started playing with it, the hearing in Doncaster was told yesterday.

Within minutes, a fire had started on the bed and the room was soon engulfed with flames and thick smoke.

A post-mortem examination revealed that 70 per cent of Libby-Jayne’s body had been burned in the fire, which experts believe would have reached temperatures of 200C. But it was the “thick and noxious” smoke from the fire that killed the infant.

In a statement read to the court, written by the teenage babysitter, who also cannot be named, he said he had been babysitting for Miss Hambrey for about two months while she went to band practice.

Recalling the events leading up to the fire, the statement read: “About 7.20pm [the child] ran downstairs and said ‘there’s a fire.’ I ran upstairs, but couldn’t get close to the bedroom door. I could see flames hitting the roof so we ran outside and we heard a window crack.”

Two neighbours were alerted to what was happening, and emergency services were called.

Neighbour Gary Keeling tackled the blaze in a bid to save Libby-Jayne, who was still trapped in the bedroom. Giving evidence, Mr Keeling said he made three attempts to get to the bedroom but could not tackle the “thick wall of smoke” and the heat.

He said: “I could hear the burning – things cracking, things falling. But I could not see because of the smoke. Soot was falling down like snow on my bare flesh and it was quite painful.”

Emergency services arrived shortly after and firefighters, using special breathing apparatus, managed to pull Libby-Jayne out of the house. She was taken to Rotherham Hospital, but medical staff could not resuscitate her.

Recording a verdict of accidental death as a result of smoke inhalation, coroner Nicola Mundy said: “Within the property there were a number of disposable lighters. [The child] was playing with one of those lighters and in doing so caused the bedclothes to ignite.

“The fire took hold very fast. As well as intense heat, this also produced thick and acrid smoke. Attempts were made to get Libby from the bedroom but it wasn’t until emergency services arrived that they were able to get her out.”

Ms Mundy also raised concerns that there were no smoke alarms in the house and said she would write to the Chief Fire Officer’s Association as there is no legislation which requires private landlords to provide them.