Coroner examines death of Sale boy

IT appears there was no obvious indication a fireplace facade would collapse and tragically claim the life of a young boy in Sale.

The Coroner’s Court, sitting in Sale on Wednesday, inquired into the death of five-year-old Tye Sunderland in October last year.

The boy died in hospital of head injuries suffered when part of the brick facade of a fireplace fell on him as he and his sister swung on the mantelpiece.

A brief of evidence was prepared for Coroner Clive Alsop by police and the court heard evidence of the condition of the house from civil engineer Brian Ross, Wellington Shire building surveyor Josh Hillman and real estate property manager Paul Telfer.

Coroner Alsop explained the inquest was not a head hunting exercise, but was to make findings that could lead to legislative directions that may prevent similar tragedies in the future.

He emphasised it was not an exercise in attributing blame for Tye’s tragic death.

Of particular focus for the inquest was if any weakness in the chimney in the second bedroom of the family’s rented Cunninghame St house could have been detected before their occupancy.

Inspection of the property following the boy’s tragic death by civil engineer Brian Ross noted evidence of foundation subsidence and cracking to the double brick building, but no evidence of weakness in the chimney structure itself.

Mr Ross explained building regulations regarding inspection of brick work and walls were particularly vague and told the court there were no building regulations relating to internal renovations to fireplaces when the fireplace facade’s renovations were carried out, probably more than 30 years ago.

He told the court there was no evidence of ties from the chimney to the brick facade evident after the facade’s collapse, other than the stability provided by the one-and a half bricks on either side of the facade.

However the court heard wire ties may have corroded during the intervening years if they had been used.

The home in Cunninghame St was, according to council records, built in the 1930s and a property inspection for the landlord before the family moved into the rented property noted the house was rundown with cobwebs and cracks in the walls.

But the inspection noted no obvious defects in the bedroom chimney’s brickwork.

Coroner Alsop indicated he would deliver his findings in the Sale Court at a later date.

For read Friday’s Gippsland Times.