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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 16:39 GMT
Baby death blamed on government
Rhianna Hardie
Rhianna Hardie suffered 95% burns

An inquest jury has blamed government failures for the death of a baby who was scalded when a water tank burst above her cot.

Rhianna Hardie, aged 10 months, received 95% burns at her home in Taunton, Somerset, in November 2006.

Faults in the type of heating system were not passed on by the authorities after a similar death, the jury heard.

Coroner Michael Rose said "virtually every householder" in the UK should check their thermostats.

Sharon Minster, 30, was killed in a similar manner when a tank burst above her bed in Penwith, Cornwall, six years ago.

We will never forget her
Family statement

Rhianna's parents, Matthew Hardie and Charlene Haworth, said their daughter's death was "completely avoidable" and an "accident waiting to happen".

In a statement read by their solicitor, they said: "Rhianna was our beautiful little girl.

"Never a day goes by when we do not think of her. We will never forget her."

The tank above Rhianna's bed burst after the immersion heater's thermostat failed, leaving the water to boil continuously and venting it into the cold water tank.

That tank, which was made of plastic, melted and ruptured over Rhianna's cot.

Earlier warning

Modern immersion heaters have a safety cut out mechanism which trips if the thermostat fails.

In a narrative verdict, the jury said: "The tragedy would not have occurred if the full implications of a similar incident at Penwith in 2002 had been drawn to the attention of landlords by the relevant authority and steps taken to ensure that the water systems complied with current standards."

Ruptured tank

Mr Rose said he would be writing to the government to ensure a line of communication was opened with councils and housing associations.

A health and safety inspector told the inquest he had notified the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister of the system's fault after Ms Minster's death in 2002.

The warning was not passed on to local authorities.

Terry Rose, from the HSE, said the organisation would consider the points raised by the coroner.

"I cannot imagine the pain experienced by Rhianna's parents. My personal sympathy, and that of HSE staff involved, is genuinely with them," he said.

"In 2002, we considered that the specific circumstances arising in [the Cornwall] incident were a very rare occurrence and we believe we acted sensibly and proportionately."

The coroner added: "Rhianna had a short and I hope very happy life.

"It is incredible that a design that was in common use for four decades was allowed to continue."

The events leading to Rhianna Hardie's death

Rhianna's family urge law change
10 Jan 08 |  Somerset
Echoes of previous scalding death
09 Jan 08 |  Somerset
Government 'told of scald danger'
09 Jan 08 |  Somerset
No warnings over baby-scald tank
09 Jan 08 |  Somerset
Baby death boiler fault 'known'
08 Jan 08 |  Somerset
Baby death highlights fault risk
07 Jan 08 |  Somerset

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