“I wish it that it had been me” - Norwich father admits in his daughter’s death hearing
09:43 27 August 2014
A heartbroken father who saw his two-year-old daughter killed by a falling fireplace said he wished he could have died instead.
The death of Trinity Coward was the result of an accident, Norfolk’s senior coroner concluded.
Jacqueline Lake told yesterday’s hearing that the two-year-old’s tragic death showed a “lack of regulation” in respect of the sale of second-hand fireplaces and when they were fitted by an individual.
“Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident,” she added. “Trinity’s death highlights the dangers of carrying out do-it-yourself work in the home where a job like this requires a professional installation.”
She said advice about fitting fireplaces was available online, but was no substitute for a professional stonemason.
There was no way of telling how a fireplace had been fitted when moving into a new home, she added, and urged parents to prevent children from swinging from them in case they were not securely fixed.
She extended her sympathies to Trinity’s family and added: “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.”
Shaun Coward had bought the heavy fireplace from eBay and installed it at his home in Theobald Road, Norwich using a strong glue.
But it broke free from the wall and killed little Trinity Coward, who had been playing in her living room on July 6, an inquest heard yesterday.
Mr Coward said in a written statement that the fireplace had seemed secure and had survived previous knocks from him and the children since it was installed in 2012.
He said he had sought installation advice from DIY shop B&Q, applied No More Nails-type glue all over the back of the surround – while the packet said glue was only needed on the corners – and had prepared the wall to ensure the glue bonded.
Generous people donated almost £5,000 towards the funeral and headstone of little Trinity Coward.
The online appeal on the website Go Fund Me had been posted by Trinity’s father Shaun Coward.
He hailed everyone for their support.
“Thank you all on behalf of me, my wife and children, for your lovely, kind donations,” he wrote. “We are so grateful and she will truly have a princess’s funeral – all because of you.
“Trinity would be so, so happy and excited and, knowing her, say thank you and give you all the biggest hug and smile with her dimples.
“We cannot repay you all enough for your generosity.”
Trinity was laid to rest at Today’s Lifestyle Church, Drayton on July 30.
But the mantelpiece of the stone and marble surround fell on Trinity after she tried to swing from the fireplace, causing serious head injuries. She was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Detective Sergeant Allison McCullough said the death was a “tragic accident”, and said of the glue: “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 she made no criticism of Mr Coward, as he had not been aware of the dangers he faced.
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.
He said Trinity’s mother Kelly had also been in the room at the time, and they were both devastated.
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 them to enlist the help of a professional if they want to fit a fireplace.