Mum speaks of desperate battle to save six-year-old son from Derbyshire house fire

The mum of a six-year-old Derbyshire boy who died in a house fire has spoken of her desperate attempts to rescue him.

Tuesday, 16th April 2019, 10:54 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th April 2019, 10:59 am
Riley Jake Jackson

Riley Jake Jackson died after a fire at his home on Shaw Street West, Ilkeston, on October 26.

The blaze began when a lamp caught fire as he slept in his mum's bedroom.

At an inquest, held at Derby and Derbyshire Coroner's Court, Riley's mum Cheryl Bradley said she heard the fire alarm sounding from the landing upstairs.

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Flowers were left at the scene of the tragedy

She and her nine-year-old daughter Grace went upstairs to investigate and Mrs Bradley said: "I can't describe the fear. Hearing the alarm it's just your worst fear."

The inquest heard how she approached her bedroom and could see the smoke underneath and "feel the heat of the flames".

She desperately tried to open the door, which she said she hadn't closed earlier, but the door would not open.

The court heard how there was no sound coming from the other side of the door.

Both Mrs Bradley and Grace left the house and went out onto the street at the front of the property to try and get help.

"I just remember screaming for help in the street,” she said.

A neighbour also attempted to get into the bedroom door but was unsuccessful. Riley was found by Derbyshire Fire and Rescue officers on top of the mattress.

Senior Coroner Dr Robert Hunter blasted social media users for speculating on the incident at the time, and said those who made ill-informed comments should "hang their heads in shame".

He added: "It's very easy to point the finger at someone, in a position of ignorance, not knowing the full facts. It concerns me in society today that there is a lack of compassion for a mother who's lost her darling little boy."

He told Miss Bradley she should not feel responsible in any way.

He said Riley's death could only be described as a "tragic accident", and that Riley would not have felt any pain from burns he suffered as he was unconscious due to breathing in the smoke from the flames.

Dr Hunter added: "It's more likely than not that he was asleep."

Chris Smith of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue, who was the fire investigations officer for the case, told the court how the door may have been blocked on the other side by burned items which had fallen and obstructed the movement of the door.

He also suggested the door could have expanded in its frame causing it to jam.

During the inquest, Mrs Bradley paid tribute to her son.

She said: “He was a very happy little boy who loved life. He was very high-spirited, a joy to be around. He was a huge character. He had a thirst for knowledge, he wanted to learn something new every day."

Riley, who was born with a heart condition, had a brother, Ryan, and a sister, Grace, who lived together at the family home.

She described the moments she gave her son "a big kiss and a hug", before he went up to bed.

The inquest heard how the hot halogen light bulb in the bedside lamp came into contact with a “combustible material”, starting the blaze in front of the bedroom door, which went on to spread around the room.

Dr Hunter added that he would be writing to the secretary of state about the overall safety of halogen bulbs, as they can reach a temperature of 200 degrees - which can ignite any combustible material and burn anyone who tries touching it.

It is thought the bulb was smoldering away for around 20 to 30 minutes before the fire took place.

Dr Hunter added: "Halogen bulbs are commercially available to buy in any shop. There is nothing wrong with them unless they come into contact with a flammable material."

A post-mortem examination found Riley died from fire-related burns and carbon-related toxicity.

Dr Hunter offered his condolences to the family and told them to "remember the good times".

Addressing the family, he said: "I hope the inquest has given you a sense of closure. Riley's death could not have been predicted or foreseen.

“You should not tie yourself up in guilt. No one should feel responsible."

* This story first appeared on the Derbyshire Live website.