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Lakanal fire inquests: victim fell unconscious during 999 call

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Lakanal fire inquests: victim fell unconscious during 999 call

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Legal, Local Government

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One of the victims of the Lakanal House fire tragedy fell unconscious while on the phone to 999 operators, an inquest heard yesterday.

Catherine Hickman, 31, was on the line to the emergency services for nearly an hour before passing out.

The coroner's inquest into the 2009 fire will try to establish its cause and how it spread.

Fire broke out on the ninth floor of the 14-story building in Camberwell at around 4pm on 3 July 2009, with an early police investigation suggesting that it was caused by an electrical fault in a TV set.

Tenants Dayana Francisquini, her two children Thais and Felipe, Helen Udoaka with her baby daughter Michelle all died along with Ms Hickman in the incident.

The inquest heard that Ms Hickman told the operator: "Oh my God, listen, I can see flames at the door."

When she said that more and more smoke was coming into her flat and asked whether she should get out, the operator told her she shouldn't.

At 4.30pm, Ms Hickman told the operator: "It's orange, it's orange everywhere."

Ms Udoaka also phoned 999, telling them that "everywhere is choked with smoke".

She was advised to use a towel or blanket to block the smoke.

Last May it was decided that there was no realistic prospect of any prosecution being brought against Southwark Council for manslaughter in relation to the fire.

The fire left almost 100 families homeless.

In the aftermath of the blaze, the council spent £2.4m on site works, leasehold buybacks and home loss payments to displaced residents. Another £1.7m was spent on security, temporary accommodation and emergency provisions for residents.

The Lakanal building has remained vacant since the fire and no decision has been made on its future. It is currently only accessible to those directly involved in the inquests, and by written permission and signed agreement from the Coroner.

The inquest continues.

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