London

Beko fridge fire death: Coroner urges safety reform

Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah Image copyright PA
Image caption Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah died in November 2010 after he was overcome by smoke at his home in Wealdstone

A coroner will urge reform of safety standards after a father died having saved his children from a fire caused by a faulty fridge-freezer.

Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah died in November 2010 after he was overcome by smoke at his home in Wealdstone, north London.

The 36-year-old helped his two daughters to safety through a window.

His daughters - one aged three and the other three months - survived, but he did not escape the house himself.

'Reform safety standards'

Coroner Andrew Walker has accepted recommendations put forward by Hertfordshire Trading Standards and London Fire Brigade about the way safety problems are recorded and how irresponsible manufacturers should be punished.

He will now urge the government to reform safety standards.

Lawyers representing Mr Benjamin-Muthiah's family said the changes "would stop manufacturers keeping safety issues secret" and force them to take action.

Mr Walker recorded a narrative verdict at North London Coroner's Court, which blamed a defrost timer on the family's Beko fridge-freezer for the blaze.

The inquest previously heard that Beko, one of Europe's largest white goods brands, had been aware of a possible safety issue with components as far back as 2003 but failed to rectify it.

'Human life priceless'

Mr Walker said he could not be sure what caused the defrost timer to fail and said a product recall to fix the problematic component might not have prevented the blaze.

The family's lawyer, Jill Patterson, said the inquest had highlighted problems with regulating products and product recall.

"The changes could potentially overhaul consumer product safety regulation," she said.

"They put the power back in to the hands of consumers and stop manufacturers from keeping their problems secret."

After the inquest, Mr Benjamin-Muthiah's wife Jennifer said: "Manufacturers, producers and their retailers should be held more accountable for their actions, or their lack of response to consumer safety concerns.

"The value of a human life is priceless."

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