Page last updated at 17:54 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Poorly-fixed lintel killed child

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The coroner said it was a tragic event and that he would be contacting government departments

A four-year-old boy died after a mantelpiece over a fireplace collapsed on top of him, an inquest jury has ruled.

Matthew Green died from chest injuries after the 110lb (50kg) stone lintel fell on him at his home in Towcester, Northamptonshire, in October 2005.

Recording a narrative verdict, the jury said Matthew died of cardiac injury.

The verdict said the mantelpiece became detached because of a failure to apply sufficient fixings.

"The lack of national industry standards and regulation for the fitting of fire surrounds, including training, installation, quality inspection, secondary review and audit paper trails, were also a contributory factor," the coroner's report said.

'Loud crash'

The four-day inquest at Rushden and Diamonds Football Club in Irthlingborough heard Matthew's parents, David and Gail, had bought the house from Persimmon Homes in 2003 but had never had any concerns about the safety of the fireplace.

On 15 October 2005 Matthew was at home with his father and sister Rachel, now 15, while his mother was out shopping.

Matthew and David Green, 38, greeted family friends Alan and Karen Brugnoli at the front door before the youngster ran off into the lounge.

This tragic incident has devastated our whole family
Gail Green, mother

His father described hearing a "loud crash" from the living room.

The group ran into the lounge to find Matthew lying under the stone mantel, which had broken in two and crushed him.

He was taken to Northampton General Hospital by air ambulance, but died later.

The inquest heard that the youngster's ribs had been fractured and his heart had been ruptured.

There had been "insufficient" mortar built into the mantelpiece to keep it together and no additional screws or metal dowels recommended by experts, the hearing was told.

Persimmon Homes, which sub-contracted company KD Childs to fit the fireplaces, had not checked the standards and had never received documents about how fireplaces were fitted.

A mantelpiece had previously fallen off at another Persimmon home but it was treated as a "one-off" incident.

Assistant deputy coroner for Northamptonshire Tom Osborne said he planned to write to the government about building regulations and standards department to ask for a new regulation covering the fixing of mantelpieces.

He said he would also write to Persimmon Homes in the hope the company would put in place its own standards.

'Lovely boy'

A Persimmon spokesman said the company extended its deepest sympathies to the Green family for their tragic loss.

The spokesman said: "It is group-wide policy to obtain appropriate health and safety assessments for all sub-contractors and we expect they carry out their duties in accordance with current regulations and industry standards.

"Sadly there have never been any such regulations or industry standards in relation to fireplace installation."

After the inquest Mrs Green said: "Matthew was a lovely boy, full of life, laughter and happiness.

"He was enjoying life having just started school, where he had made lots of friends.

"This tragic incident has devastated our whole family and has been particularly traumatic for David, myself and Matthew's sister Rachel.

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