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Coroner demands action from Whirlpool to prevent future deaths

A corner has demanded action from Whirlpool to prevent future deaths following the involvement of one of the manufacturer’s appliances in a house fire which killed two people.

Coroner

1 December 2017

Douglas McTavish, 39, and Bernard Hender, 19, died on 10 October 2014 following a fire in their flat in Llanrwst, North Wales.
 
The inquest into the deaths of Mr McTavish and Mr Hender concluded that an electrical fault in a Hotpoint tumble dryer caused the fire that led to their deaths.
 
In the Regulation 28 report to prevent future deaths assistant coroner for North Wales, David Lewis said:
 
“I did not emerge from the hearing confident that Whirlpool’s risk assessment processes have fully identified or appreciated the extent of the risk of fire (and its potential consequences). My impression was that at least some of the evidence from those called at the request of Whirlpool was defensive and dismissive in nature.
 
“The description by the company’s Global Product Safety Director of the company’s approach to what he described as ‘soft data’ from the field (meaning, amongst other things, reported instances of fires) was of considerable concern to me. I am concerned that the company’s reluctance to place due reliance on information coming forward in this way, and instead to prefer to take advice from itself, represents an obstacle to timely learning and a likely inhibitor to progressive steps which might prevent fires and saves lives.”
 
In his narrative conclusion given on 17 August 2017, the coroner said: “On the balance of probabilities the fire was caused by an electrical fault in a tumble dryer in the laundry room at the flat.”
 
The PFD report states that the door switch assembly which was of interest in the case is used “in literally hundreds of thousands of appliances manufactured by Whirlpool”.
 
The inquest heard that on the evening of 9 October 2014 Mr Hender had been out for a meal with his partner, who also lived in the flat, and when they returned at around 12.30am Mr McTavish was in bed.
 
Mr Hender’s partner woke at 6am the next morning the flat was filled with smoke. He got up to investigate and saw flames coming from the tumble dryer.
 
He managed to escape the flat and call the emergency services but Mr McTavish and Mr Hender did not manage to find a way out.
 
Thomas Jervis, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day who represents the families of Douglas McTavish and Bernard Hender, said:
 
“We welcome the coroner’s report requesting action from Whirlpool to prevent future deaths. The families of Doug and Bernard want to make sure that no other families go through what they have had to and we hope that the coroner’s report will prompt swift and effective action from Whirlpool.
 
“We will continue to call for Whirlpool, and other manufacturers, to take action on potentially dangerous white goods and for an effective recall system to be implemented to prevent the devastating consequences of appliance fires.”

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