Beko fridge freezer caused fire which killed father Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah, in Wealdstone, inquest hears

Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah

Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah

First published in News
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Harrow Times: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A man died after saving his family from fire in their home caused by a faulty fridge freezer.

Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah, 36, died after a blaze at his home in Grant Road, Wealdstone, on November 11, in 2010.

Barnet Coroners Court heard today how the family’s Beko fridge freezer had caused the fire due to a fault with the defrost timer switch.

The court was told how Mr Benjamin-Muthiah passed his two-month old daughter to his wife Jennifer, who then passed the child out the bathroom window to a neighbour who was standing on a bin near next to the house.

However Mr Benjamin-Muthiah was not able to escape and was found unconscious in the bathroom by firefighters. He died two days later at Northwick Park Hospital.

In a statement read out to the court, Mrs Benjamin, a paediatrician, said the couple were woken by smoke in their bedroom.

She said: “I got out of bed and went to the landing and I saw there was flames and a lot of smoke. I told Santosh we had to get out.

“I went to get the children who were asleep in the bedrooms and then I opened the window and shouted for help.”

The inquest heard that before the fire, the fridge freezer had been “playing up a bit” and that Mrs Benjamin was going to call Beko about the issue but hadn’t had the time.

She said: “We lived in our home together with our daughters and if we were aware of any issue with the fridge freezer we would have acted immediately.”

In the fire investigation report, John Hughes of the London Fire Brigade said: “The most likely cause of the fire was the malfunction of at the fridge freezer unit in the kitchen."

He added that burn marks in the kitchen were “consistent with the fridge freezer being the point of origin of the fire”.

Witness Clayton Witter, who was managing director for Beko from 2002 to 2010, was asked by the coroner when the company had first heard about fires being caused by fridge products.

He told the court the company were aware from 2003 of a small number of “component failures” and from 2004 to 2010 had received reports of a fires but had not gone ahead with a product recall.

The company did not recall the products until after the death of Mr Benjamin-Muthiah in 2010.

He said: “It was only after the tragic death of Mr Muthiah that we felt we had to look at the situation in a totally different light.

He added: “We felt there was a minimal risk to people but we thought it was necessary to remove that minimal risk.”

The inquest continues.

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