When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Woman cries as she is quizzed over fatal fire
10:25am Wednesday 20th June 2012 in Shirley Towers Inquest
A WOMAN broke down as she was quizzed about the night a blaze broke out in her home, leading to the death of two firefighters.
At the hearing yesterday, the mumof- two was accused of “walking away” from the burning split-level flat to seek refuge in her mother’s home four floors above, leaving neighbours to call 999 and raise the alarm.
The inquest heard how neither Mrs Hoffman nor her husband Karl Hoffman reported the emergency because they had left their three mobile phones in the lounge, where the blaze began.
Within an hour of the fire taking hold, firefighters Alan Bannon, 38, and James Shears, 35, who both served with Red Watch at St Mary’s station, were trapped inside the property and unconscious because of the searing temperatures.
When their colleagues could eventually rescue them they were taken outside where efforts were made to save them, but Mr Bannon was pronounced dead at the scene and Mr Shears in hospital a short time later.
Giving evidence, Mrs Hoffman agreed that she felt “guilty” about not making the emergency call, but said she thought a woman who was on the landing on the ninth floor had done so.
She told jurors how she had “forgotten”
that her husband had placed a curtain on top of a lamp earlier in the day while he was vacuuming and simply “didn’t look up” when she switched the light on, causing it to burn a large hole in the fabric.
Mrs Hoffman, who was pregnant with her second child at the time of the fire on Tuesday, April 6, 2010, said she could smell burning but believed it was coming from outside the flat because their window was open.
Earlier Karl Hoffman was taken into the court in handcuffs – having been brought from prison, where he is serving a three-year jail term for grievous bodily harm – to give evidence.
He told how when he realised the burning smell was coming from their curtain, he threw a large full bottle of Dr Pepper over it to try to extinguish the flames. When that didn’t work he took off his jumper to try to put it out, but it didn’t work and the fire began to spread.
Asked why he had not put the curtains down once he had finished cleaning, he said: “It went out of my mind completely. I’ve got ADHD.”
The couple were both accused of misleading police the day after the fire when asked about how it broke out.