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Families' plea over Saltash cooker gas deaths

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: December 14, 2012

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  • Kevin Branton who died due to carbon monoxide poisoning at his home in Saltash.

  • GAS TRAGEDY: Richard Smith, left, and Kevin Branton died when a faulty grill at their home in Saltash poisoned them with carbon monoxide. More should have been done to warn people about the defects on that type of cooker, say the men's families.

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THE FAMILIES of two friends from Saltash who died after carbon monoxide gas was emitted from a faulty grill, say more should have been done to make people aware of the defect sooner.

Richard Smith, 30, and Kevin Branton, 32, died in November 2010. The gas at their home in Woodlands Lane was produced by a faulty grill, which had been left on with the door closed.

"We feel that the recall system was totally inadequate," said Richard's father Brian Smith. "Five other people had died prior to us purchasing that cooker."

The company which made the grill, Beko, released a safety notice in March 2009 to try to make people aware of the defect.

According to Cornwall Trading Standards, there are currently 7,000 cookers throughout the UK that have not been modified.

The families claim more should have been done to make people aware of the problems with the grill.

"The store had our address on the invoice and the delivery address and no one contacted us," Richard's mother, Wray Smith, said.

The cooker was purchased by Mr Smith's parents from Derry's, in Plymouth, which has since closed.

"They had more than enough information but I don't think any effort was made," Mrs Smith said.

They also claim Beko took too long before publishing the safety warning. Mrs Smith said: "A much quicker response was needed. We now have to live with the fact that we bought that cooker."

A simple modification can be made to the appliance to make it safe. "It annoys me because you can see how easy it is to do," Mr Smith said. "All that needs to be done is cut off a bit of rubber."

The families of the two friends, who went to Saltash Community School together, said testing standards were not adequate.

Mr Smith said: "The tests were only carried out with the grill door open. What if a kiddy out there knocked it shut by accident or what if someone couldn't read? The grill was not fit for purpose."

Standards have since been amended to include tests conducted on gas cookers with the grill door closed.

The families say they were frustrated by the length of time it has taken for the inquest to be heard. "We were told the day after the deaths it was definitely the cooker and carbon monoxide poisoning," Mr Smith said.

"But we weren't allowed to do anything about it until after the inquest. We have had to wait two years."

Richard and Kevin's parents said they wanted to raise awareness about the faulty cookers sooner.

"It makes us angry that we had to wait so long because you're always thinking 'what if there's another one out still there being used'," said Mrs Smith.

Her husband added: "We don't want people to go through the same thing we have been through."

The families are now urging people to get their cookers checked.

The two families paid tribute to their sons saying Richard was a happy-go-lucky man who enjoyed photography and music.

Mrs Branton described Kevin as a very intelligent person who loved working outside and wanted to go back to college to train to be an engineer.

The parents said they are grateful for the support they have received over the past two years.

Mrs Branton said: "Their friends still keep in touch with us, invite us to their weddings, birthdays and christenings, and have also been helping me with the renovation of my house.

"They are a truly great bunch of lads and girls and have helped us to keep Kevin and Richard's memories alive."

A Beko spokesman said: "Following a thorough investigation and consultation with the relevant authorities we launched a corrective action programme."

It carried out regional press advertising campaigns starting in March 2009.

Letters were sent to all customers on the database, door knocking campaigns were launched, and advertising was put in specialist magazines.

Beko said: "The majority of affected models have been located and modified. However, 6,998 affected units remain untraced."

Glen Dimplex Home Appliances, the parent company of Belling and New World said: "To date, we have located and successfully modified more than 90 per cent of the affected cookers.

"We would like to reassure consumers that these cookers are safe to use if the grill is operated with the grill door open."

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