September 8, 2009 in Uncategorized
A faulty electric window switch on the driver’s door sparked the fire that killed two-year-old Vanilla Nurse.
Fuelled and funnelled by oxygen entering from the window, the flames rapidly spread to the back of the Honda Jazz and engulfed the area where Vanilla was sleeping.
The fault had been reported, but technicians had said it was not possible to fix it immediately.
Forensic expert David Klatzow yesterday concluded that this was the sequence of events that resulted in Vanilla’s death. But he reiterated that unless more information was revealed, Honda should not be blamed.
Honda will respond to the finding once it receives a report.
Vanilla, the daughter of satirist Justin Nurse, died outside their Noordhoek home on her second birthday on Wednesday.
Her mother, Camilla Colley, had just unpacked groceries from the car for her daughter’s birthday party when the blaze broke out.
Yesterday Klatzow, who the Nurses asked to investigate the fire, said he had narrowed down the cause of the fire to an electrical fault in the window switch.
The day after the incident, he examined the car. Based on the “burn pattern” and paint damage, he interpreted that the fire broke out near the driver’s seat area and had then spread to the back of the car.
Shortly before the fire, Colley had taken the car to a Honda dealer as the driver’s electric window would not close. She was told she would have to wait for a spare part.
Klatzow said Honda technicians had closed the window but Colley’s mother had later accidentally opened it and driven with the window open.
“On getting back into the car, she heard a hissing noise from the area around the switch. She looked around and found nothing that gave her cause for concern.”
Klatzow said Colley had not been a smoker, there were no flammable substances, and he found no sign of a short circuit.
Klatzow said a fault within the switch caused arcing – electricity jumping across the gap in a circuit and the resultant intense heat igniting any nearby combustible material.
The arcing set the plastic covering of the switch alight. Because the window was open, the flames “got enough oxygen” and were “funnelled towards the back of the car”.
He said cars were often made of materials – a combination of “petrol, rubber, plastic and electrical wires” – which was “a recipe for a very enthusiastic fire”.
Klatzow believed Vanilla died “breathtakingly fast” and described his investigation as “one of the most distressing”.
He said of the three million Honda Jazzes, no similar incidents had been reported. He did not believe Honda could be held responsible for the incident.