A leading appliance brand should have acted more quickly to stop the sale of cookers linked to 18 deaths in the UK and Ireland, a coroner has concluded.
Geraint Williams said Beko was too slow to react when it learned that people had died and tests revealed that its cookers could cause potentially fatal buildups of carbon monoxide.
Williams, the assistant Cornwall coroner, gave his findings at the end of the inquest of five people who died in the county after using Beko cookers.
Friends Richard Smith, 30, and Kevin Branton, 34, were found dead in the terrace house they shared in Saltash in November 2010. Husband and wife John and Audrey Cook, aged 90 and 86, and their daughter Maureen, 47, died inside their static caravan in Camborne in February 2013.
In both cases they had accidentally turned on the grills of their Beko cookers when they had intended to use the ovens, the coroner concluded. The nature of the seal on the grill led to fatal buildups of carbon monoxide.
The cookers were made by Beko’s Turkish parent company, Arçelik, and distributed in the UK under the Beko brand and in Ireland under Glen Dimplex. Around 60,000 of the cookers were made.
Following the inquest, Branton’s mother, Denise, urged people to check whether they had one of the defective models of cooker. “It would appear there is a likelihood that some of these cookers may still be in use in some homes today,” she said. “My hope is that maybe by highlighting this problem, we can prevent any further deaths.”
Smith’s father, Brian, said: “We believe if Beko had informed the retailers to stop the sale of these cookers when they were first made aware of the deaths, we would not have been able to purchase that lethal cooker and our sons would still be alive. I hope that the lessons learned during this inquest are taken on board by all persons concerned and regulations are changed to prevent further deaths.”
Beko was told about deaths in November and December 2008 but it was not until February 2009 that the company began trying to contact all the owners of potentially dangerous cookers. By the end of the year it had traced 43% of those sold, and it is now up to 58%.
It did not get to Smith and Branton or the Cooks because of issues with how the shops from which they bought the cookers kept and passed on customer records.
The Cook family purchased their cooker in 2006, before it was known there was a problem. But Brian Smith bought his son his cooker on New Year’s Eve 2008, after Beko knew there had been deaths.
The coroner said a chance was missed by Beko to stop Smith buying the cooker. He also said initial delays by Beko in reporting issues around the cookers to trading standards “left them in the dark” and amounted to “serious failings”.
Williams concluded the deaths were accidental, and he is reviewing what steps should be taken to prevent further deaths happening in similar circumstances.
A spokesperson for Beko said: “Since these tragic incidents we’ve continued to raise our safety standards, and the testing processes our products go through have become even more robust and stringent.
“We also collaborated with the industry to get the UK and EU gas safety standards changed in 2009. The cooker models involved in these incidents have been the subject of a recall for over 10 years and are no longer manufactured or sold.”