DIY warning to parents after falling fireplace kills Norwich toddler, 2
14:53 26 August 2014
Parents have been warned of the dangers of DIY after an inquest heard a toddler was killed when a fireplace fell on her at her home.
Trinity Liliana Coward was found with serious head injuries after the mantlepiece of the stone and marble surround fell on her at her house in Theobald Road, Norwich, on July 6.
The two-year-old was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital but died shortly after arrival.
An inquest in Norwich heard her father, Shaun Coward, had glued the fireplace to the wall.
Experts said this would not be strong enough to hold the heavy installation.
Dean King, a Norfolk County Council trading standards officer, said that about one child each year dies in the UK in a similar way.
He said: “The incidents all involve surrounds made from stone which are fixed to a wall with an adhesive.”
Mr King added that such projects should be undertaken by a specialist stonemason.
“It is not a suitable DIY project and should be approached by somebody with some knowledge of safe installation,” he said.
The inquest heard the family bought the fireplace for between £100 and £200 from eBay about two years ago.
Because it was secondhand, it did not come with fitting instructions.
Mr Coward bought industrial-strength No More Nails-type glue from DIY store B&Q and fitted it to the wall, he said in a statement read to the hearing.
He used more glue than recommended in an attempt to make sure it was safe.
Detective Sergeant Allison McCullough said: “Unfortunately we’ve all seen numerous adverts with a man hanging off skyscrapers with this type of glue.”
Coroner Jacqueline Lake concluded that Trinity suffered an accidental death.
She said: “This does highlight a lack of regulation in respect of the sale of secondhand fireplaces on a private basis and where they are fitted by an individual.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.
“Trinity’s death highlights the dangers of carrying out do-it-yourself work in the home where a job like this requires professional installation.
“I make no criticism of Mr Coward - he was trying to make his home look nice and was unaware of the dangers he was facing.”
In his statement, Mr Coward described how he watched the tragedy unfold.
He said: “Trinity was happy, being cheeky and running around.
“She reached up to the fireplace and started swinging from it.
“All of a sudden it came away from the wall.
“I rushed over and expected her to respond the way she normally did when she had a fall but she was lifeless.”
He added that her death had left him “absolutely devastated”.
“She was my rock, She was a real daddy’s girl. I wish I could have died so that she could have lived,” Mr Coward said.
The family did not attend the inquest but in a statement issued at the time of her death, they described Trinity as “our little princess”.
They said: “Your gorgeous smile and those dimples forever etched on our hearts.”
Norfolk County Council has since published advice to parents on how to avoid such accidents, urging people not to install stone fireplaces themselves and to get a professional stonemason to undertake the work.