Stanley police
Photo by Newcastle Chronicle

Tragic House Fire Claims Life of Mother-of-Two After Hair Extensions Ignite

In a heart-wrenching incident in Tantobie, near Stanley, County Durham, a mother-of-two died from severe burns after her synthetic hair extensions are believed to have caught fire. The inquest heard that Tracy Ann Gardiner, 46, tragically lost her life in her smoke-filled bedroom last October, despite the brave efforts of passers-by to save her.

Tracy, who struggled with alcoholism, was severely intoxicated at the time of the incident, according to findings presented at Crook Coroners’ Court. The fire reportedly started when she lit a cigarette in her kitchen, causing her hair extensions to ignite. The burning extensions then dripped onto her clothing as she moved towards her bedroom.

The situation escalated around 9:15 am on October 15, when local resident Stuart Tinnion noticed black smoke billowing from an upstairs window of the terraced house on Unity Terrace. Tinnion recounted his attempt to alert those inside: “I brayed on the front door with my fists as hard as I could to try to alert anyone inside; however, nobody came to the door.”

Tracy Ann Gardiner
Photo Credit: NNP

After dialing 999, Tinnion and another local, David Bennett, attempted to enter the house. Bennett described his entry: “Everything was calm downstairs. I ran to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. I noticed black heavy smoke at the top. I was in two minds but I thought it was too dangerous to go upstairs.”

Despite their efforts, the dense smoke made it impossible to reach Gardiner. Firefighters later arrived and tackled the blaze using specialist breathing apparatus. Unfortunately, Gardiner was found in bed, badly burned, and was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Durham Constabulary ruled out any suspicious circumstances or third-party involvement in the fire. The inquest revealed that traces of smaller fires were found downstairs, leading investigators to piece together the tragic sequence of events. Craig Jewkes, head of fire investigation at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, explained, “Tracy lit a cigarette, possibly at or around the kitchen table, it has unfortunately caught on part of her wig or synthetic hair and she has moved away into the hall.”

The investigation concluded that the burning hair dripped onto Gardiner’s clothing, which continued to burn as she went upstairs. “The molten synthetic hair has dripped into the clothing and started to burn and she went upstairs with her clothes still burning or smouldering,” said Jewkes. The burning clothes eventually came into contact with the bed materials, igniting the fatal fire.

Assistant Coroner Rebecca Sutton recorded a verdict of misadventure, acknowledging the fire investigator’s belief that a cigarette ignited the synthetic hair, leading to the tragic outcome. The community has been left shaken by the event, highlighting the dangers of synthetic hair products and fire hazards in the home.

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