Llanrwst fatal fire: 'Spontaneous combustion' dryer claim


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Llanrwst fatal fire: 'Spontaneous combustion' dryer claim

  • 21 April 2017
  • From the section North West Wales
Doug McTavish and Bernard Hender
Image caption Doug McTavish and Bernard Hender died in the fire at the flat in Llanrwst

A fatal fire which killed two men was caused by "spontaneous combustion" inside a tumble dryer, an inquest has been told.

Bernard Hender, 19, and Doug McTavish, 39, died in the blaze in Llanrwst, Conwy county, in October 2014.

An ex-head of product safety for the US firm Whirlpool said eye-witness evidence suggested material caught fire inside the drum of the machine.

The Abergele inquest is examining what role the dryer played in the fire.

Giving more evidence on the third day of the hearing, Larry Latack said it was notable that the sole survivor of the blaze had seen flames coming from drum of the Hotpoint model of dryer.

"It's very significant. Spontaneous combustion - you expect it to come from the drum," said Mr Latack, who until recently had been the head of global product safety for Whirlpool.

An expert giving evidence on Thursday had said there was "no compelling evidence" that the fire started in the tumble dryer, but that possibility could not be ruled out.

Notices had previously been issued by Whirlpool telling customers to unplug Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit models manufactured between 2004 and 2015 after a potential fire risk was identified.

Mr Latack had told the inquest the fire had not triggered a "substantial hazard" incident within the company.

But he also confirmed that between 2009 and the fatal fire in 2014, there had been 28 reports of fires in which the same type of door switch in the dyer was implicated or had not been ruled out.

"Whirlpool is a very diligent company. We take these incidents seriously," he insisted.

Laundry 'damp'

However, his theory of spontaneous combustions has been dismissed by an independent expert working for insurers of the flat where the fire occurred, above a funeral directors' office in the town.

Dr Paul Jowett said at the time of the fire, it was "more likely than not that the laundry was damp".

He said a fault with the door switch assembly coming into contact with lint in the dryer was the most likely cause of the blaze.

The inquest is continuing.