A minute’s silence for Bola and Fiyan

Memorial Service for Bola and Fiyin Ejifunmilayo.
Memorial Service for Bola and Fiyin Ejifunmilayo.

MILTON Keynes Coronor Tom Osborne opened the inquest into the deaths of Bola Ejifunmilayo and her three-year-old daughter Fiyan with a minute’s silence.

The pair were found dead in their Fishermead home 36 hours after a fire broke out in the building in September 2010.

It took fire crews two-and-a-half hours to bring the blaze under control.

On Wednesday the inquest heard how firefighters couldn’t reach the back bedroom where tragic Bola and Fiyan died.

But the coroner insisted the case was not about apportioning blame to individual firefighters who were at the scene.

However, Mr Osborne said he would judge whether there were failings in the procedures the fire service took, whether there were communication problems between the fire service and the police and the role of Milton Keynes Council in enforcing regulations in Homes in Multiple Occupancy (HiMO).

The inquest heard a recording of the phone call 29-year-old Bola made to the fire service, first reported by the Citizen in February 2011, but were told by station manager Gary Taylor, incident manager at the scene, that firefighters were not informed of the call.

They were acting upon the initial report made by a fellow resident, who said Bola and Fiyin might be in a bedroom on the second floor – there was no definitive relay of the message from the Bucks Fire and Rescue Control Room to the firefighters that the pair were still inside. The fire on the first floor made it treacherous for firefighters to gain access to the rooms above, and the floor gave way as they tried to make their way to the back bedroom.

One firefighter was injured and taken to hospital.

“There is nothing that could have been done to gain accesss to the second floor and the room,” said Mr Taylor. “Even if we were told they were definitely still in there, we had concerns about the stability of the floor.”

Firefighters were limited to a visual search of their bedroom via a ladder through the window, but the smoke made it almost impossible for a more comprehensive search to be carried out.

Mr Taylor added: “I genuinely believed that the property was clear when I gave the ‘all persons accounted for’ notice.”

He said he returned with a team of investigators 36 hours later, when they discovered the bodies underneath the window, where they couldn’t have been seen.

Last year, Barbara Zhanje of Corby was jailed for 12 years for manslaughter as a result of starting the fire.

Seven people shared the three storey town house with Bola and Fiyan after it was converted into bedsits. The landlord was also jailed earlier this year for breaching fire safety regulations.

> The inquest is expected to last two weeks.