Tragedy as boy, four, set fire to makeshift den

Nathan Harrison. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Nathan Harrison. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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A BOY aged four died after accidentally setting fire to a makeshift den during a game of hide and seek with his brother at the family home in Yorkshire, an inquest heard.

Nathan Harrison was overcome with toxic fumes when a polyester duvet caught fire after he had started the blaze with a utility lighter he “mistook for a toy”, which he found under his 10-year-old brother Matthew’s bed where he was hiding.

His mother, Jodie Collins, who had been using an exercise machine in the garage while her sons played together at the house in Keighley, discovered the fire and pulled the boy out of the bedroom when she found him collapsed.

A heartbreaking statement read to Bradford Coroner’s Court related how she wrapped him in a towel as she carried him out of the house, adding: “I sat on the driveway cuddling him in my arms. It was at this point I believed he had died.”

Nathan was taken to Airedale Hospital in Keighley, but he died from the effects of inhalation.

The inquest heard how Matthew had taken the utility lighter from the top shelf of the pantry at the family’s home in Keighley and placed it under his bed to look at later because he thought it “looked like a gun” and he 
“wanted to shoot it out of the window”.

Miss Collins initially thought her sons were playing in the garden when she noticed the fire and raised the alarm with her neighbour, Julie Mitchell.

But she found them inside the house, although her cries for help could not be heard over the sound of a smoke alarm.

She eventually found Matthew at the bottom of the stairs, and then discovered Nathan collapsed under the bed in the smoke-filled bedroom.

When investigators examined the lighter used by Nathan they found that the safety “off position” that prevents it igniting had been switched to the on position.

The statement from Miss Collins described a strong brotherly bond between her sons, adding: “Matthew adored Nathan. In fact he mothered him and we often had to set boundaries to curb this mothering.”

Recording a narrative verdict about the tragedy, which happened on August 11 last year, the senior coroner for West Yorkshire, Martin Fleming, said: “Nathan was a very much loved son, grandson and brother. Tragically Nathan came into contact with the lighter and plainly a little four-year-old mistook that for a toy.

“The naked flame spread to the bedding which turned into toxic smoke and prevented the little boy from getting out of the room.”

Mr Fleming added he would look into making recommendations aimed at making utility lighters harder to use for young children.