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Fri June 25 2021

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Fireplace installer fined £10k for boy’s death

27 Jun 13 The stonemason who installed a dodgy fireplace into a new Persimmon home that toppled and killed a child has been fined £10,000 including costs.

Matthew Green
Matthew Green

Four-year-old Matthew Green was killed in 2005 when the 50kg mantelpiece collapsed onto him in his Towcester home. His parents had bought the house from Persimmon Homes just two years earlier.

An inquest in 2008 heard that the fireplace had been inadequately fixed and that a fireplace had previously fallen at another Persimmon site.

Charges against Persimmon were dropped earlier this year due to “inconsistencies” in the handling of the investigation. However, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) was still able to proceed against the main who installed it.

Kristian Childs, trading as KD Childs Stonework of Luton, had been subcontracted to fit stone fireplaces in new homes, including the one in Coulthard Close that was subsequently bought by Matthew’s parents, David and Gail Green in 2003.

A subsequent HSE investigation found that Mr Childs had secured the mantel with small patches of mortar rather than mechanical fixings.

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Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday (26 June) that Mr Childs was aware of the need to ensure fireplaces were properly secured after two others he had fitted at other properties were found to be insecure by the home owners.

Kristian Childs, 42, of Chestnut Avenue, Sundon Park, Luton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £7,500 with £2,500 costs.

After the hearing Alan Craddock, head of operations at HSE’s Midlands construction division, said: "This was a tragic incident that devastated a young family, made so much worse by the fact it could have been so easily prevented. Every stone used in a fireplace must have a mechanical fixing, such as a steel bracket and screws, to hold them together and against the wall. A few small patches of mortar are not acceptable because it cannot guarantee a secure bond.

"Mr Childs was well aware of the risks of falling fireplaces yet failed to take the correct steps to ensure the fireplace he fitted at Coulthard Close was safe, with appalling consequences."

Matthew’s mother, Gail Green, said: "Losing Matthew was devastating. We miss him every day and will never truly recover from the events of that day. We urge anyone involved with the installation of fireplaces to learn from what happened to our precious son and take steps to ensure that they take the time and trouble to fit them properly. If they don’t then lives will continue to be put at risk and Matthew’s death will have been in vain."

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