Dart, Sydney

Dart, Sydney                 1899 February 10th   

 

Child Burnt to Death

 Mr S Buchanan-Smith, city coroner, held an inquest on Monday at the Infirmary, touching the death of Sydney John Dart (10), son of John Ryall Dart, carpenter, residing at 46, Milford Street, Salisbury. Mr F J Harrison was chosen foreman of the jury.

Elsie Dart, the mother of the deceased, was the first witness called. Witness stated that on Saturday morning about half-past six deceased asked her to allow him to go down stairs to get a cup of tea. She said he might do so, but told him to return to bed as early as possible. The child, clad only in a flannelette night shirt, descended the stairs into the kitchen. Shortly after the child cried out to her. Her husband went down, and she heard the latter call out “Bring down a blanket, Jack’s alight.” She at once rushed down with a blanket and finding the child on fire tore off his shirt, and at once proceeded to dress the burns with towelling, sprinkled with oil and flour, after which she rolled him in the blanket, and her husband carried him upstairs and put him to bed again. She sent for Dr Ellis about eleven o’clock, but he was out at the time. About twelve o’clock she sent a message to her husband by her little girl, to tell him to return home at once, as she thought deceased should be removed to the Infirmary. He arrived about half-past two, and deceased was removed to the Infirmary without delay. By the Foreman: The child must have taken two pieces of wood from the hob and threw them on the fire, and ignited the shirt he was wearing.

The Coroner: If your husband was called at twelve o’clock why did he delay arriving until close upon three o’clock? – My little girl gave her father the message, but did not tell him to hurry home, he did not therefore understand the matter was so urgent.

The Coroner: Do you remember the police sergeant calling upon you and your telling him you had no oil in the house? – I did not tell him so.

By the Foreman: I used linseed oil. I did not send for another medical man but sent for his father to take him to the Infirmary.

By a Juryman: The reason I delayed so long to send for a doctor was because I did not think the child was burnt so badly as he really was. I did my best for the child.

Mr Gordon, house surgeon, next called, stated that deceased was brought to the Infirmary on Saturday at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and was at once attended to by the assistant house surgeon. He was burnt over the whole front of the body, both legs as far as the knee, the whole of the right arm, and the left hand. Everything possible was done, but the child never rallied, and died at quarter to eight on Sunday evening. In his opinion death was due to shock from the burns.

The Coroner: If the child had been brought to the Infirmary at once, would his life had been saved? – I don’t think so, the burns were so extensive.

The Coroner: Can you tell the jury whether any oil had been placed on the burns? – No. I did not see the child until five o’clock, the burns had been already dressed, and the child was in bed.

By the Foreman: It is quite possible for the child to have been burnt to the extent he was if the flannelette shirt reached to the knees and the whole garment was on fire.

By a Juryman: Flannelette is combustable, because it is understood the greater portion of the garment is cotton. The child was strong and healthy.

Mary Beatrice Horswell, nurse at the Infirmary, deposed that she on duty in the ward when deceased was brought in. She dressed the burns.

By the Foreman: The rags which were used for the dressing before he came into the Infirmary were quite dry. The mother might have used flour and oil but I cannot say whether she did or not. By a Juryman: I saw no trace of flour or oil. I cannot produce the rags because they were burnt.

John Ryall Dart, father of deceased, stated that his wife besides using the towelling, put an apron on the floor and sprinkled oil and flour thereon, and rolled the child upon it. He carried the child upstairs rolled in a blanket, and put him to bed. He then went to work. His eldest son rose on the morning in question at 5.30 and lit the fire before going to work. There was no other light in the kitchen at the time.

By a Juryman: My wife borrowed a cup of flour from a neighbour. I had linseed oil in the house. I met my little girl in High Street at one o’clock. She said “Dad, don’t stay about, look sharp home, Mother thinks Jack will have to go to the Infirmary.” I went for my wages first and reached home at quarter to two o’clock. I brought the child to the Infirmary in Goddard’s bus as soon as I could.

By the foreman: I did not think the child was so much burnt as he was when I put him to bed. Beyond this I took no further steps. I did not suggest at the time that the child should be taken at once to the Infirmary. My wife did everything possible I thought.

Mr Perkins said he could not acquit the father of a great deal of the responsibility for the delay, and expressed the opinion that the Coroner should inform the parents that the jury felt that greater promptitude should have been exercised.

A Juryman: It seems to me they have been sufficiently punished in losing the child.

The foreman, who is a chemist, said that from the evidence of the nurse, he should think that linseed oil was applied to the linen rags. Linseed oil was of a drying nature and would leave the rags hard, especially if flour were used. Whilst he felt there was undue delay in taking the child to the Infirmary, he thought the parents did all they could with their knowledge to alleviate the suffering.

A verdict of “accidental death” was returned.

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