Why did Zane Gbangbola die? Locals call for answers
Locals call for a debate into the death of 7 year old from Chertsey, who died in February earlier this year after his home was flooded. Emily Davis reports
On 8 February 2014, a day after his home in Chertsey was hit by severe floods, 7 year old Zane Gbangbola was found dead in his home. His parents Nicole and Kye were hospitalised in a critical condition. A petition is now calling for the real reason behind Zane's death.
Officials are currently investigating whether Zane’s death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. But family, friends and the fire services crew have highlighted that there is evidence to suggest the real cause was hydrogen cyanide. The toxic gas lurks in unregulated landfill, and can be released from the ground by mixing with floodwater.
The fire and rescue team who attended the incident and monitored the air in the family home confirmed pockets of hydrogen cyanide were present. Hydrogen cyanide was also found in the family's blood.
It is understood that hydrogen cyanide can be released into the breathable atmosphere from flood water following a change in pressure or temperature.
“If this was the cause of Zane’s death, then clearly there are issues of public safety that require urgent attention” says Ella Oates, who is fronting the campaign.
Despite the reports that pockets of hydrogen cyanide were found at the property, Zane’s death is being attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from pumps in the family home. The family have since said that the only pumps which were on at the time of the flood were electric. The house is a rare all electric house with no gas supply and no capability of generating carbon monoxide. No carbon monoxide was found in the family home.
It took Public Health England 14 weeks to confirm to the family that hydrogen cyanide was indeed found in their flooded house. Despite the immediate finding of hydrogen cyanide in the home, the pathologist was never told to test Zane’s blood for hydrogen cyanide.
The family’s own investigations into the surrounding area have since revealed that a field 6 metres from their home contains a lake that looks idyllic, but is actually contaminated land. Zane’s parents bought the house in 2004, when an environmental report showed no land contamination.
However, subsequent reports for a neighbouring property in 2011, and for their own home, ordered by Zane’s parents last month, indicate contamination due to an old landfill site behind their home, now an infilled lake.
Both Mr Gbangbola, who still has to use a wheelchair following his illness, and Ms Lawler believe there is a chance that families in other homes may be at risk since restrictions on what could be dumped at landfill sites in the past were less stringent.
“The agencies are focusing on avoiding national hysteria over the possible risk posed by old contaminated, undisclosed landfill sites throughout the UK” says Oates. “How many are there? Could you be living by one?”
Speaking about the tragedy, Zane’s father Kye Gbangbola urged the importance of a national inquiry.
“We really want to push and find answers because it is wrong that these risks can occur. Ideally this is something we would like to be able to highlight nationally. This deadly gas has come from somewhere, the authorities need to admit its presence, investigate its source and act to prevent more deaths and illness.”
“We miss Zane every second of the day and all those who spent time with Zane commented that Zane was a truly remarkable boy. We would not want anyone else to experience this pain and burden of a living hell”.