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Inquest Hears of Tragic Towcester Boy Killed By Collapsing Fireplace

Published: 16th December 2008 17:10

Matthew Green of Towcester who was killed when a mantlepiece collapsed onto him. Picture Masons News AgencyMatthew Green of Towcester who was killed when a mantlepiece collapsed onto him. Picture Masons News Agency

A four-year-old boy was crushed to death by a stone mantlepiece which collapsed in his parents' living room, an inquest heard today (Tues).
Tragic Matthew Green died of massive internal injuries when the 50kg chunk of masonry snapped in two and struck him in the chest.
The tot's devastated father reported hearing a ''loud crash'' before seeing the tot slumped motionless against the fire place covered in broken stone.
Paramedics raced to the scene and an air ambulance was scrambled, but despite their efforts he was pronounced dead at hospital following the accident in October 2005.
At an inquest into his death, Matthew's heartbroken dad David, 38, told how he struggled desperately to lift the fallen stone from his son's lifeless body.
David, MD of his own insurance brokers, sobbed as he said the tragedy took place just moments after the arrival of family friends at their home in Northampton.
Speaking through tears, he said: ''Our friends knocked on the door, I went out to greet them.
''Matthew also came running out to meet them at the door - he was very excited.
''We were in the hall way. Matthew then ran back into the living room and there was a loud crash.
''He was slumped against the fire place. The whole mantle piece had come off and was effectively broken in two.
''I picked him up and carried him to the sofa but he did not move at all. We dialled 999.
''I went with him in the air ambulance. My wife came by car and as she arrived the staff came to the decision he had gone.''
The inquest in Northampton heard that the accident took place shortly after 11am on October 15 2005.
Matthew was at home with dad David and older sister Rachel, now 15, and had been waiting for the arrival of close family friends.
He had been ''very excited'' about seeing them, but tragedy struck when the visitors arrived.
David went to answer the front door to welcome the guests, and heard the mantlepiece collapsing in the living room.
He ran to Matthew's aid and attempted to lift the masonry from his body, before dialling 999.
Family friend Karen Brugnoli, described the horrific scene she witnessed.
She said: ''David answered the door, Matthew was very excited to see us. The dog was there too and it was all a bit chaotic.
''We were greeting David then there was this almighty crash and then a scream.''
Matthew's mother Gail, 39, a housewife, had been out shopping at the time of the accident.
She told the inquest: ''I was just pulling into the carpark when my mobile rang.
''It was daughter who said you have to come home quickly the fire place has collapsed on Matthew.''
Matthew was airlifted to Northampton General Hospital but died hours later of heart injuries caused by blunt chest trauma.
Gail said she had no idea how serious Matthew's injuries were until she reached hospital.
''I thought he would receive attention in hospital and that would be it,'' she said.
''But when I arrived at hospital and was greeted by my husband I found he had died.
''Matthew had just started school. He was full of life, a lovely, lively little boy.''
The inquest heard that the family had lived in their new-build Persimmon home since June 2003, and that the mantlepiece had been installed at the time.
Neither David or Gail said they had no reason to believe it was unstable before it collapsed.
David said it was possible that Matthew had been swinging on it, but added: ''It was not something I had ever seen him do before.''
But paramedic Amanda Lowe, who was the first on the scene, told the inquest that the mantlepiece had only been secured by adhesive - and not strong nuts and bolts.
In a statement read to the court, Mrs Lowe said she found Matthew struggling to breathe and that his complexion had turned blue through lack of oxygen.
She said: ''He was making snorting noises and although he eyes were open they were fixed and staring. His colour was bad and it was obvious the situation was serious.''
Amanda was joined by a paramedic crew and an air ambulance before the decision was taken to fly Matthew to hospital.
She added: ''I found the incident very upsetting and had a few tears. I looked at the fire place and could see the mantle piece had been secured by three bits of adhesive.
''This was clearly deficient and this tragic situation should never have happened.''
Ambulance technician Christopher Hayle attended the scene with paramedic Barry Hughes and also noted the construction of the fire place.
He said: ''The lintil on the fire place had been recessed into the wall only by a couple of inches. Only the plaster on the wall appeared to be keeping it in place.
''We were amazed it had stayed in place at all.''
Air crew doctor Luis Mendia, who arrived at 11.55am described Matthew's condition when he arrived the family home in Coulthard Close, Towcester, Northants.
He said: ''His airway was partially blocked by his tongue. His breaths were fast and shallow. His pulse was over a hundred which meant his heart was beating too fast.
''His eyes were closed and did not respond to any stimuli such as pain or voices.''
Pathologist Guy Rutty, a professor at University Hospital Leicester recoreded the cause of death as cardiac injury and blunt chest trauma.
The inquest heard from stone restorer Lee Astle who worked for the building company K.D. Childs, owned by Christian Childs, on a casual basis between late 2002 and late 2005.
K.D Childs were contracted to fit the fireplace in the Greens' house on June 2 2003, but Mr Astle insisted he could not remember whether or not he did the job.
He had no previous experience of installing fire places or building qualifications, but said he picked up his skills through ''on the job training''.
Mr Astle said: ''I was fitting fireplaces on my own. Nothing was brought to my attention at any time that anything I was doing was unsafe.
''Otherwise I would not have carried on doing it.''
Asked what he was doing on June 2 Mr Astle said: ''I do not know myself where I was that day. I do not know how many of Chris's other lads were in either.''
He also told the inquest of two other mantlepieces he had been asked to repair in his time working for K.D. Childs.
One mantlepiece had come loose and needed to be repointed. The second had collapsed and broken in two.
The inquest continues.

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