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Monday 19 November 2018

Dad and five children killed by fumes in mystery farmhouse fire, inquest hears

An inquest heard investigators have been unable to find out what caused the fire which killed six members of the same family

David Cuthbertson, 68, died following a fire at a farmhouse along with his five young children (Dyfed-Powys Police)
David Cuthbertson, 68, died following a fire at a farmhouse along with his five young children (Dyfed-Powys Police)

A father and his five young children died from deadly fumes after a mystery fire broke out at their farmhouse home, an inquest has heard.

Dave Cuthbertson, 68, died in the blaze alongside children Just Raine, 11, Reef Raine, 10, Misty Raine, nine, Patch Raine, six, and Gypsy Grey Raine, four, after flames engulfed their property while they slept.

An inquest into their deaths heard investigators have so far failed to find out what caused the fire due to the devastating damage to the farmhouse at Poityn Farm in Llangammarch Wells, Powys.

Leaf Raine, Mr Cuthbertson’s 13-year-old daughter, managed to escape the blaze on October 29 last year after being woken up by smoke filling her room and hearing her father’s shouts for her and her siblings to flee.

She climbed through a skylight window and was joined by siblings Blue, 12, and Farr, 11, who raised the alarm with a neighbour around midnight, but emergency services were unable to rescue her other siblings or father.

The one-day hearing, at Welshpool Town Hall, was told Dyfed-Powys Police are still investigating the cause of the blaze due to the level of damage to the building after it collapsed.

Detective Inspector Adam Ellis said a “number of enquiries” were still to be made and could not rule out the possibility of foul play.

“We have kept an open mind in terms of the causation of the fire,” he said.

“We’ve been very mindful of the fact there could’ve been foul play during our investigation.

“We’ve been presented with no evidence to show there’s been involvement of a third party.”

A fire investigator told the inquest copper pipes on a radiator had melted, meaning the temperature inside the farmhouse during the blaze would have exceeded 1,085 degrees.

Richard Hancock, manager of the fire investigation team Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue, said there were a number of objects found in the ruins of the farmhouse including cigarette lighters, candle holders, and hundreds of metres of electrical wires which had been “daisy-chained”.

He said extension blocks could overheat and ignite if added to an original block.

“Given the degree of destruction in the room of origin and accounts placing the fire in the ground floor lounge, it was very difficult to identify one particular item as being the cause of the fire,” he said.

“Electricity does still remain a possible cause of ignition.”

Mr Hancock ruled out the possibility the fire was caused by a gas leak, after one of Mr Cutherbertson’s children had suggested that the house smelled out gas in the lead up to the blaze.

Mr Hancock said: “Had there been a gas leak in the premises I’d expect to see an explosion more than a fire.

“Also you would’ve expected any fire to then burn back to the exposed pipework. That wasn’t the case.”

Firefighters who attended the blaze were unable to enter the property due to a combination of extreme heat and risk of collapse.

Roger Smith, crew manager of the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service appliance which first responded to the emergency, said the farmhouse was “fully on fire”.

“It was incredibly hot. You couldn’t go anywhere near the windows. Where they were broken the blast of heat was intense,” he said.

“To the right hand side you couldn’t approach the window or get within a couple feet of it.

“It was not safe to enter from the heat point of view and also from collapse as well.”

Mr Cuthbertson, a retired builder, had 17 children from previous relationships and was living at the property with eight of them following his split from their mother, Sima Khan, who had custody of the children before she suffered a stroke.

Coroner Andrew Barkley recorded a narrative conclusion for the six deaths, saying each had died from inhalation of fire fumes, but there was no clear evidence what started the fire.

Mr Barkley said: “The general consensus is the fire started in the lounge area, known as the red room.

“What we cannot say is why it started in that room or what caused it to start, such was the level of destruction.

“Many factors have been mentioned.

“The individuals died from the effects of inhalation of fire fumes from a fire at their home address, the cause of which remains unknown.”

After the inquest, a statement from relatives of the family said: “We as a family would like to once again thank all the emergency services for the hard work and dedication throughout the past year and we thank the public for their continued support.

“We request that we are left alone now to come to terms with the tragedy.”

Belfast Telegraph

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