The brave survivor of an horrific house fire which killed her mother and three others did everything she could to try and save their lives.
A Chesterfield coroner’s court inquest heard on Tuesday, September 16, how seven-year-old Tia James had been awake when lethal smoke from a fire spread through the house on Williamthorpe Road, North Wingfield, killing her mother Claire James, 27, her mother’s friend Josie Leighton, 32, and her young sons Jordan, 12, and Tyler Green, 9.
Tia told police how she had woken and tried to alert Claire and Josie and the boys and tried guiding one of the boys downstairs but all four perished and died from smoke inhalation.
Assistant coroner for Derbyshire James Newman said: “Tia was woken by something, possibly an alarm and by smelling something, and she remembers trying to wake Tyler and Jordan.
“She remembers trying to wake Josie and Claire. Her recollection is that Josie and Claire were awake as she remembers Josie saying let’s go downstairs.”
The smoke-blackened youngster said she got outside and tried to rouse neighbours during the fire in the early hours of November 20, 2013, but she got no response and she was found by firefighters.
Neighbour Sarah Hempshall said she had previously heard banging and shouting from Claire’s home and during the night of the fire in the early hours of November 20 she did not respond when she heard noises and a tap at the window.
She said she was unsure if she had heard an intermittent smoke alarm sounding and woke about 4.55am when she smelled smoke and then alerted the fire service.
Firefighters forced their way into the property and a firefighter found one of the boys at the bottom of the stairs and found Claire and Josie at the top of the stairs and another firefighter found another boy in a bedroom.
Claire and Jordan were declared dead just before 6am and Jordan and Tyler were taken to Chesterfield Royal Hospital where they were pronounced dead just before 7.30am.
Tia told police the boys had been staying at Claire’s home for a sleep-over and she had gone downstairs after an alarm had sounded.
Neighbour Ian Shaw, who lives about 12 houses away, told the hearing how he had heard a little girl shouting “mum” three times after he had been woken by one of his dogs about 1.40am and had gone outside.
He added: “In hindsight I should have gone down and had a look and I cannot apologise enough. If I had been there I would have broke the door down.”
Derbyshire fire service established there had been an electrical fault in the floor board space between the ground floor and the first floor of the property which could not have been detected.
The fire spread upwards, according to an investigating Derbyshire fire officer, and had also spread to a TV below which ignited and flames went up and thick black smoke was produced.
Assistant coroner Mr Newman, who confirmed Tyler was found upstairs in the house and Jordan was found downstairs, concluded that Claire James, of Williamthorpe Road, and Josie Leighton, Jordan and Tyler Green, of Dethick Way, North Wingfield, all died as the result of an accident.
He said: “While I believe there was a missed opportunity to raise an earlier alarm, I have not heard anything to suggest it would have made a material difference in terms of the outcome.”