The death of two
brothers in a flat fire in Old Basford has been described as a ‘needless
tragedy’ that could have been prevented had the property been fitted with
working smoke alarms.
Benone (38) and Catalin
Cojocaru (29) died in a fire at their flat at Vernon Court, Southwark Street,
Nottingham in the early hours of 25 November, 2018. The cause of the fire was
found to be accidental, as a result of damage to the cable supplying power to a
At an inquest into the
two brothers’ deaths on Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 July 2020, Assistant Coroner
Jonathan Straw concluded that the deaths had been accidental due to the
inhalation of the products of combustion.
At the time of the
fire, he said, there was evidence to suggest that there were no working smoke
alarms in the flat, despite the landlord, Alan Singh, insisting that smoke
alarms and a heat detector had been part of the inventory for the
The inquest heard that
Benone and Catalin, both Romanian nationals, had travelled to the UK to work in
the building industry. The shared their flat at Vernon Court with their younger
brother Bogdan (23) and two other brothers from a different family, Stefan and
Reading from a
statement given by Bogdan Cojocaru, Mr Straw said that the five occupants of
the flat had returned home after work that evening and sat talking and drinking
until approximately 11pm, when they went to bed.
In the early hours,
Bogdan woke after hearing a loud bang. He described not being able to see
anything, and the air being thick with smoke. After waking up Alexandru, the
two made their way to the entrance to the flat. Bogdan describes seeing a large
orange flame and thick smoke in the room where the fridge freezer was, and in
which three of the occupants slept.
The two men were joined
by Stephan and were able to escape via a metal staircase at the rear of the
property. They were later taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.
In his statement Bogdan
recalls calling the names of his two brothers who were still inside the flat, but
he was unable to reach them due to the fire.
Mr Straw said: “Picture
if you can the horror going through the minds of those men.
“The fire developed and
spread very quickly and was most intense in the room where the two brothers
were sleeping. All of the occupants were rendered confused and disorientated
and were unable to get their bearings to get to the exit – this easily could have
been five people who died.”
The inquest heard that
fire crews had arrived at the scene within six minutes of the call to Fire
Control. They were commended for their actions, along with Fire Investigator
Tom Clark for his ‘comprehensive’ investigation into the cause.
Since 1 October 2015,
it has been a requirement for landlords of private rented properties to ensure
smoke detection is supplied for each storey of the property and a carbon
monoxide alarm is provided where solid fuel is used. This is referred to as
‘The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015’, and can be
found at www.gov.uk/government/publications
or via this link.
Mr Straw questioned
whether the occupants of the property would have had cause to remove and dispose
of the smoke alarms, had they been present.
He added: “I have every
reason to suspect that if smoke alarms had been installed, Benone and Catalin
would and could have got out of the property.
“My sincere condolences go to the Cojocaru
family in Romania, who are utterly bereft at the loss of their two sons in this
Fire Investigator Tom
Clark, of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This is a tragic case
and our deepest condolences go to the family of Benone and Catalin Cojocaru.
outcome demonstrates the absolute necessity for smoke alarms to be fitted on
every level of a domestic property and for them to be tested regularly.
“The vital early
warning that a smoke alarm gives, enabling occupants to exit the property and
dial 999, can be the difference between life and death.
incident also highlights the need for all electrical appliances to be
maintained, in good working order, and free from obvious defects or damage, to
reduce the risk of fire.”