The mother of twins who died in a tragic municipal fire while visiting their father and his girlfriend has demanded an inquest into their deaths.
Four-year-old Tarrow and Ophelia were sleeping alone in a house when a tall candle burning just feet away set fire to a painting, resulting in toxic smoke engulfing the children and ending their young lives.
The adults gathered outside around a bonfire about 50 yards away had no warning of what was happening when the smoke detector was found disabled with no battery on November 6, 2021, in the Goonengerry commune in northern NSW, near Byron Bay.
Their mother, Akira Garton, says there are still many questions and wants a NSW coronal inquiry to find out whether the fire involved criminal negligence.
Coroner Karen Stafford has declared the twins’ deaths accidental and has not launched an inquest because she believed it was unnecessary.
Akira Garton (pictured), the mother of twins who died in a tragic council fire while visiting their father and his girlfriend, has demanded an inquest into their deaths after the coroner recommended none
Four-year-old Tarrow and Ophelia (pictured) were sleeping alone in a house when a tall candle burning just feet away set fire to a painting, resulting in toxic smoke engulfing the children, ending their young lives in 2021
“At most, the inquest would remind parents and carers not to leave children alone with an open fire and not to remove the cover of a smoke detector,” Ms Stafford said in her unpublished reasons not to recommend an inquest. The Australian.
Still, Ms Garton urges more to be done to prevent future tragedies, saying there is a culture around Byron of leaving children unattended around lit candles and incense, as well as a failure to install smoke alarms.
“Almost a year and a half after my kids died, I feel like the system would rather pretend my kids don’t exist,” said Ms Garton.
“No one has taken responsibility for the deaths, acknowledged or even apologized for the deaths. A judicial inquiry will allow for all questions to be asked – a judicial inquiry is the bare minimum my children deserve.’
Ms Garton had dropped her girls off at their father James Wright (pictured in 2019), a political activist who was outside at a bonfire as a candle burned on a piano in their bedroom where the girls slept
Mrs. Garton had dropped her girls off at their father James Wright, a political activist who was outside at a bonfire while a candle burned on a piano in the bedroom where the girls slept.
He and his girlfriend arrived home just before 4 a.m. to find smoke billowing from the room.
They called emergency services, but the twins could not be resuscitated. There was little damage to the house itself, but it is believed the poisonous fumes from the smoke led to the twins’ deaths.
The mother had split from Mr. Wright more than three years before the fire and said they were doing their best to make things work for their girls, agreeing that they would each spend seven days with their children in their separate homes in Mullumbimby.
Ms Garton says many questions remain and wants a NSW coronial inquiry to find out whether the fire involved criminal negligence
Four-year-old Tarrow and Ophelia died on November 7 of smoke inhalation at a Goonengerry commune in northern NSW, near Byron Bay
Mr Wright, 39 at the time of the fire, was a well-known Bay FM community radio host and was a former political candidate of the anti-exclusion party Keep Sydney Open.
He and his new partner Hannah Forrester lived in a multi-person property in Goonengerry.
There were six separate residences on the property, and Mrs. Forrester lived in an open house that police say was nicknamed “The Love Shack.”
An investigation revealed that owner Michael Hameiri had an electrician install a new smoke alarm in the house in January 2021 and was therefore not at fault for the fatal fire.
Coroner Karen Stafford found that the candle caused a painting hanging on a wall above the piano to fall down, “probably” knocking over the candle and starting the fire.
All but one of the property’s windows were closed, filling the house with smoke.
While the coroner discovered that there was one smoke alarm in the property, “the hood had been opened and, as there was no battery inside, the power source had been disconnected rendering the alarm inoperable.”
Coroner Stafford was satisfied there were no suspicious circumstances and did not believe an inquest was necessary.
“While leaving an open flame in a room with a child, no adult supervision and no effective smoke alarm are matters of safety, there is not a wider public safety issue,” she said.
Coroner Karen Stafford found that the candle set off a painting hanging on a wall above the piano, ‘probably’ knocking over the candle and starting the fire
While the coroner found there was one smoke alarm in the property, “the hood had been opened and as there was no battery inside the power source had been disconnected rendering the alarm inoperable”