Two-year-old boy crushed to death by fireplace 'hanging by a thread' at Yorkshire home

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A 'happy' two-year-old boy was crushed to death by a 'substandard and dangerous' marble fireplace described as an 'accident waiting to happen', an inquest heard.

Bram Radcliffe died in his home when the large 60kg fireplace, which was 'hanging by a thread', became dislodged from the wall and a piece crashed down on to his head.

The boy was crushed to death at home when a fireplace fell on top of him

The boy was crushed to death at home when a fireplace fell on top of him

Bradford Coroners' Court today (Fri) heard how the appliance's surround was only held in place with glue and 'inadequate' screws, going against general practice instructing fitters to attach it to a solid substructure.

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It had been fitted into the home before Bram and his mum, Amy Johnson, had moved into the property two-and-a-half months before the tragedy.

The accident occurred at Bram's home in Huddersfield, West Yorks, on November 8, 2017 at around 7.30am.

His mother, Miss Johnson had left the toddler watching television in the living room while she went upstairs to go to the toilet, the court heard.

She had only been gone a minute when she heard a 'loud crash' and ran downstairs to find Bram on his back unconscious with pieces of the fireplace on the floor around him.

Detective Sergeant Peter Usher of West Yorkshire Police told the inquest evidence suggested the boy tried to reach for the television, which was above the fireplace, and leaned on the fireplace.

The pressure, described as 'minimal', likely caused the marble to come crashing down and one piece struck Bram in the head causing a skull fracture and sending him into cardiac arrest.

He was given CPR and put on a defibrillator then rushed to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary but he never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at 8.20am.

Building materials expert, David Richardson told the coroners' court the fireplace was glued to four brackets, which were screwed on to plasterboard.

He said the way the fireplace had been installed was 'totally inadequate' and represented a 'significant issue'.

He added: "This would have been a very dangerous situation and an accident waiting to happen unfortunately.

"If you could have a case history of how not to do it this is a perfect example. The whole installation must be done by a professional, not by a DIY enthusiast.

"The brackets were attached to the plasterboard using relatively short screws.

"They have been glued to the marble, which is not in accordance with best practice.

"The mantle had no form of restraint. The pieces of stone must be attached to a solid substructure.

"It's important that everybody understands the potential consequences."

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Mr Richardson added the installation of fireplace surrounds, like the one that fell on Bram, aren't currently subject to regulation.

Recording a narrative conclusion, coroner Martin Fleming said he would be making a recommendation to the health and safety authorities in an attempt to prevent an incident like this ever happening again.

He said: "This is a heartbreaking case.

"Without any question, I have heard that Bram was a very much-loved little boy who's very badly grieved.

Mr Fleming added: "Its installation was substandard and dangerous.

"I can only suggest that it was installed by a cowboy, a cowboy firm or a DIY enthusiast.

"This is a lesson in how not to install a fireplace."

A statement from Miss Johnson, who didn't attend the inquest, read out by a court official described the morning of the incident.

It said: "I went upstairs, I left Bram watching cartoons. I had only been upstairs a few seconds when I heard a crash.

"I ran down to see what had happened and turned the corner and saw Bram lying on the floor on his back.

"The surround was on the ground positioned around Bram. Bram was not breathing. I called 999. I was panicking and confused."

She added: "He was a happy and healthy boy."

A post-mortem found Bram died as a result of a head injury.

Miss Johnson and her son had only moved in to the house, which was owned by her partner Ryan Kaye, in August that year.

In a statement read out in the court, Mr Kaye said he had noticed that the fireplace was 'wobbly' a few days before Bram died.

He had planned to have his dad, who is a joiner, come round and take a look in the days after Bram died.

A West Yorkshire Police investigation was carried out following the incident to try and trace the company or individual who installed the fireplace.

However, DS Usher said records didn't go back far enough to find out who was responsible.