Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Power cut off prior to Karrinyup fire deaths

April 10, 2007 - Power cut off before fire deaths: There has been controversy surrounding the incident after it was revealed the electricity had been cut off to the property in the weeks leading up to a tragic fire in a Karrinyup Homeswest house last week. The WA Opposition is concerned that the woman and her two sons may have lived without power in the weeks before their deaths.

Cozette Pickering, her eight-year-old son Shayden and Rhys, 12, died when their Homeswest house burnt down on Friday.

Opposition spokeswoman for child protection Robyn McSweeney says she will raise the matter in Parliament. She says utilities are not turned off without a series of checks by the suppliers, and there are protocols in place to help people who cannot pay their bills.

"I will be bringing it up in Parliament. I've checked out what happens to people who can't afford to pay with Alinta Gas and Western Power," she said. "I do know that there's a process in place and I want to see that that process was followed."

The State Government and the Department for Community Development have declined to comment on Ms Pickering's situation because the deaths are to be investigated by the coroner. Electricity retailer Synergy and gas supplier Alinta will not say whether they had spoken to Ms Pickering about her accounts.

The ex-husband of a mother of four who died with her two young sons has described the blaze as a tragic accident.

Fire investigators have been unable to say what caused the fire but today Michael Pickering confirmed that forensic officers had told him there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire:

"They can only confirm that the fire started in the kitchen, they will never know what caused it because the fire was such an intense one. There were no accelerants, they don’t know whether it was a candle, gas, or whatever, they will never know apparently."

Speaking for the first time, Mr Pickering told the West Australian newswpaper how the fire that started at the Finnerty Street home about 9pm quickly turned into an inferno that engulfed the home. He said the kitchen became a fireball, which quickly spread through the house, collapsing the roof. Mr Pickering had separated from his ex-wife four years ago. He was working in the Pilbara when the fire happened.

The Homeswest house did not have smoke detectors or power and lacked proper water pressure. Opposition child protection spokeswoman Robyn McSweeney says the property did have gas connected. Ms McSweeney says the boys' father, Michael Pickering, is angry at Government housing provider Homeswest for not installing smoke alarms.

She says Mr Pickering was also concerned by a lack of water pressure in the street. "The water was restricted and it came to mind that somebody had of picked up the hose to put out some flames then they probably wouldn't be able to use that hose because of the water restrictions going through it," she said.

Neighbour Steven Clements said residents had unsuccessfully tried to smash their way into the burning house before firefighters arrived.

The West
ABC News
Home destroyed in fatal fire lacked smoke alarms - ABC
Family visit the site of fatal fire

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