Desperate efforts to save boy failed

A FATHER twice ran into a burning bedroom in a desperate bid to save his two-year-old son from a blaze which was started by the youngster and his older brother, an inquest heard.

A FATHER twice ran into a burning bedroom in a desperate bid to save his two-year-old son from a blaze which was started by the youngster and his older brother, an inquest heard.

James Reay groped around the smoke-filled room shared by his two sons – Tyrone and four-year-old brother Jamie Lee – at their council house in Kessingland, near Lowestoft.

The boys are believed to have started the fire at around 8.30am on May 28 after playing with matches or a lighter.

Mr Reay later told police that the older boy had previously set fire to a futon in the bedroom and both boys had been caught several times playing with matches and cigarette lighters, which he tried to keep away from them, the inquest heard.

Neither Mr Reay nor Helen Cooper, the youngster's mother were at the hearing at Lowestoft Magistrates' Court yesterday, but a statement read out recalled how he tried in vain to save his son.

The pair had put their children to bed in the early hours of the morning and then gone to sleep themselves at around 3.30am.

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Jamie Lee raised the alarm by running into his parent's bedroom – a smoke detector at the foot of the stairs was not connected.

"Helen was screaming on the bed next to me, Jamie Lee was also screaming," he said. "I kept calling 'Ty, Ty' but got no reply. I then called his name softly in case he thought he was in trouble."

Paramedics treated the 33-year-old after he briefly collapsed outside after twice rushing into the room. Neighbours also used a ladder to rescue his partner and the other child from the back bedroom.

Mr Reay was later asked to identify his son after firefighters recovered his body.

A post mortem examination showed that the youngster died from severe burns and the inhalation of fire fumes.

Karl Rolfe, assistant divisional officer at Suffolk Fire Service said that if a second working smoke alarm had been fitted on the first floor, the tragedy could have been averted.

He said that fire chiefs were in discussions with the district council about the issue.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Lowestoft coroner George Leguen de Lacroix said although a ground floor alarm would not have made a difference, he was surprised no smoke alarm was fitted on the first floor of the Waveney District Council owned property.

"It's clear that Mr Reay did all he could to reach his little boy but the smoke was just too much for him to overcome.

"I don't think there is any doubt that the fire was started by one or both of the children playing with matches or cigarette lighters."

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said afterwards that it was currently policy to fit an alarm at the foot of the stairs but, since the incident, officials were also considering installing smoke detectors on the first floor of properties.

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