Earby mum fights for justice after family’s carbon monoxide poisoning horror

Jake Broughton with his medal that he won in the Lancashire County athletics competition after he and his family have recovered from carbon monoxide poisoning. A170511/2
Jake Broughton with his medal that he won in the Lancashire County athletics competition after he and his family have recovered from carbon monoxide poisoning. A170511/2

A MUM-OF-TWO from Earby whose family was poisoned by carbon monoxide has vowed to bring those responsible to justice, despite a safety regulator saying it cannot take any further action.

Tina Broughton and her children, Holly (17) and Jake (13), were left extremely ill by a leak in the boiler flue of their rented house in Victoria Mews, which meant they were exposed to the gas for months. After they moved into the house in December, 2008, the leak was not discovered until January, 2010.

The family say their health has only just returned to near normal after the “totally nightmarish” experience.

Jake and Holly were promising county athletes before the leak and had all but given up the sport due to poor health. Their successful return to competition last weekend showed they are finally overcoming the effects.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found failings in the way the boiler had been installed at the home when it was built in 2007.

The HSE identified five parties that have held responsibility for the safe operation of the boiler at different times since it was installed.

They are the original plumber who installed the boiler, the developer, letting agency, the plumber who performed a gas check when they moved in and the plumber who performed the annual service of the boiler and discovered the fault.

The HSE said at some point after its installation the boiler flue became detached from the outlet, which could have been a result of interference, previous gas maintenance, physical deterioration or poor installation.

However, partly because protocol was not followed by the plumber who found the fault, the HSE said it was unable to pursue any formal enforcement action as the fault had been fixed, making it impossible to directly link the actions of any of the people who worked on the boiler to the cause of the carbon monoxide leak.

The investigating inspector found further faults with the boiler, which had not been addressed by the original installers or registered engineers who visited the property.

The inspector found no weather seal had been fitted over the flue termination, the ring-shaped space around the flue where it passes through the external wall had not been made good on the internal side, the flue connecting collar had two self-tapping screws missing from the time of installation and pressure relief discharge pipework was made of plastic instead of metal.

The HSE said these failings had been referred to the Gas Safe Register body for it to address the professional standards issues.

Shown a photo of the faulty flue, the HSE said: “This clearly represents a potentially dangerous situation, one that should be identified by any registered gas installer, but it does not in itself offer sufficient evidence to demonstrate when or how the fault occurred.”

Tina said she is now pursuing legal action and is determined to get answers.

She said: “I had to fight tooth and nail to get the HSE to investigate the leak. I want closure and to move on but until all this has been finished I can’t. This has made me a stronger person and I will leave no stone unturned.”

Tina said the family began to feel the effects of the carbon monoxide after they moved into the house.

“I knew something was wrong but kept putting it down to other things. Looking back I almost killed Jake because he was complaining of migraines and feeling sick. I would send him up to his room, close the curtains and turn the heating up to make him feel better. His room was above the flue so I was slowly killing him with it.”

“There was something about the house you could feel. We ended up pulling up all the carpets and replacing them with wooden floors because we thought there was something in the carpets.

“I never imagined it could have been carbon monoxide poisoning. Rented houses have to have an annual gas service so it had been checked when we moved in.

“We were in and out of the house a lot with Jake and Holly training. In the summer we were feeling dreadful. We went on holiday in July and again in August. Each time, after a few days out of the house we began to feel full of beans.

“As soon as we were back in the house we could start to feel it again.”

Tina said when Jake started secondary school in September he had to keep coming home with headaches and was having convulsions.

By the time of the annual boiler service in January when the fault was discovered, the whole family was very poorly.

Tina said Holly’s condition was made worse by her asthma but she was out of the house training a lot so didn’t feel the effects as much as Jake.

After the leak was discovered Tina called NHS Direct and was told to take the family straight to hospital.

Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide were found in their blood, the highest in Jake.

After continued health problems for months and the children feeling like they would never regain their previous level of fitness, they battled back to take part in Lancashire County Council championships last weekend.

Holly came fifth in the Under 17s 1,500m race and Jake won a bronze medal in the Under 15s 400m event.

After their nightmare experience the family had a carbon monoxide detector fitted in the house. The gas is completely odourless and virtually undetectable without such a device.

Tina said: “It has been a nightmare from start to finish and it is only just recently that the kids are coming back to their natural self. It’s all been a shock because you expect people to do their job. I just don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”