Cause of fire which left Elm Park pensioner dead and sister in hospital is undetermined

Betty and sister Irene Hussey

Betty and sister Irene Hussey - Credit: Archant

The cause of a fire which left one pensioner dead and her sister airlifted to hospital, has not been determined.

House Fire in Rosebank Avenue - fire crews at the scene last year

House Fire in Rosebank Avenue - fire crews at the scene last year - Credit: Archant

Betty Hussey, 83, died of asphyxia after to inhaling fumes from a fire in her house on Wednesday, February 22 last year.

Her sister Irene, 85, who lived in the same Elm Park address, told the inquest into Betty’s death at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court on Tuesday what she saw.

She said: “It was about 12 o’ clock, I had opened my back door to let my dogs out.

“I opened my front door and was going to open my porch but the draught from the back door closed the front door.

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“The next thing I remember was that I was in hospital and it was Thursday evening.”

Fire investigator Barry Kent said that two passers-by attempted to rescue the sisters but were beaten back by “thick black smoke”.

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When fire crews arrived, they entered the property, delivering Irene, unconscious, into the care of the ambulance service.

But emergency services were unable save Betty, who was found upstairs.

Mr Kent said that the fire had started under the stairs, most likely in or around the house’s electric meter.

He said that the damage to the cut out device attached to the meter meant that the cut out was the most likely source of the blaze.

But he admitted that other experts working on the investigation thought it was just as likely that the cause was a fault in the meter itself.

He added that there was a light switch in the cupboard which was found in an on position and could have blown – but that this was unlikely to be the cause of the fire.

John Steed from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said: “From the evidence I saw it was probably more likely that the fire originated from the top of the cut out.

“One of the signs was pitting (corrosion) and the melting of electrical connections.”

But he admitted that pitting could also have been caused if a fire had started away from the cut out and spread to it.

The inquest heard that the system of delivering and supplying electricity to people’s homes is done jointly by several different companies.

Eon were responsible for the meter in the Husseys’ house, while UK Power Networks were in charge of the cut out switch.

Meanwhile another company had actually installed the meter originally.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

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