Smith, Ellen

Smith, Ellen        1886 January 9th              Gomeldon

A shocking accident – which resulted fatally – occurred at Gomeldon on New Year’s Eve. A little child named Smith, the daughter of Thomas Smith, a laborer, was left by its mother in charge of an elder sister of the not-too-mature age of ten. They were grouped round the fire; a live coal flew out, it alighted on the little one’s clothes, and soon it was in a blaze. The sister of ten poured water on her screaming sister in the hope of extinguishing the flames. It was without effect. A laborer named Porter rushed in and tore off the burning clothes and wrapped the little one in a sheet. But the fire had done its work. The child dreadfully burned was removed to the Salisbury Infirmary; it never rallied, and death came to release it from its sufferings.

The inquest was held by Mr G Smith (city coroner) and a jury, of whom Mr W Simms was foreman, at the Infirmary on Monday afternoon.

Henrietta Smith, aged 10 years, sister of the deceased, said that on the evening of the 31st she was left in the house with the deceased, her mother having gone to visit a married sister of witness’s. While playing near the fire some hot coals “hopped” out on the deceased and lit her dress. There was no guard on the fire. Witness fetched some water and threw it on the burning clothes, but could not extinguish the flames. A Mr Porter came to her assistance and put out the fire.

Silas Porter, laborer, of Winterbourne Gunner, said that he was at work at Gomeldon on Thursday, about 140 yards from the house inhabited by the parents of the deceased. Hearing some screams proceeding from the house he ran to it, and found the deceased in flames outside the door, lying on the ground. Witness tore off her burning clothes and thus extinguished the flames. There was no doctor in the village at the time. Having obtained a sheet witness wrapped the child in it and took it indoors. On going to search for the mother he met her coming home and told her of the occurrence.

By one of the jurymen : The accident occurred at about 3 o’clock. He did not think there was a guard on the fire; he would not be certain.

Henrietta Smith, mother of the deceased, said that she was the wife of Thomas Smith. On the afternoon of the 31st she visited her married daughter, who lived about a five minute’s walk from her, leaving three children at home. Henrietta aged 10 years, the deceased aged five and another child aged four years. There was no guard on the fire, witness not thinking this precaution necessary owing to the low state of the fire. On returning to her home she found the deceased in a chair, and at once applied linseed oil to the burns. Deceased was brought to the Infirmary by witness’s husband and eldest daughter as soon as a conveyance could be obtained.

By the Foreman : She had scarcely ever left the children alone before. This was the first accident that had ever occurred in her family.

The Coroner : I don’t think this would have occurred if you had left the guard on the fire.

Witness : No, sir.

Mr Levi Luckham, house surgeon of the Infirmary, said that the deceased was brought to the Infirmary between six and seven o’clock in the evening. On examining her he found she was suffering from severe burns of the trunk and limbs. Deceased never rallied from the shock and died the next evening. He attributed the cause of death to the shock caused by the burns.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.” One of the jurymen said he thought Porter might be complimented for his ready assistance.

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