Zane Gbangbola evidence targets Thames flood inquest 'gaps'

By Tanya Gupta
BBC News

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Zane Gbangbola died at his family home in Chertsey during the floods of 2014

The parents of a seven-year-old boy who died in floods in 2014 have collated a range of information they claim was not explored or disclosed at his inquest.

A coroner said Zane Gbangbola died from carbon monoxide from a petrol pump used by his parents to remove floodwater.

Zane's parents insist he was killed by cyanide gas from a flooded landfill site and want their evidence examined.

The Environment Agency said there had been a public inquiry where the coroner had given a comprehensive decision.

Parents Kye Gbangbola and Nicole Lawler have won the support of trade unions and opposition MPs, including shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, who has said a Labour government would hold an independent panel inquiry "to finally get the truth about Zane".

At the recent Labour Party conference, Mr Burgon told a meeting of lawyers: "People shouldn't have to fight for justice, but in the society we live in, sadly, all too often they do."

Image source, Truth about Zane campaign
Image caption,
Nicole Lawler and Kye Gbangbola - who was paralysed in the incident in which Zane died - recently attended Labour's conference

Zane would have turned 13 on 21 October.

His parents said he was a caring child who at a young age campaigned for the environment.

They said he also loved sports cars and his favourite place to visit was the Brooklands motorsport and aviation museum.

Calls for an inquiry into Zane's death have come from the Fire Brigades Union and an Early Day Motion by Labour's Jess Phillips has been backed by 50 MPs.

A spokeswoman for Surrey coroner Richard Travers, who in 2016 concluded Zane's death was accidental, said it was not appropriate for him to comment.

Image caption,
Zane's parents have said water from the land behind their property flooded their home

The Thames burst its banks in February 2014 but Zane's parents said the road between the river and their house in Chertsey remained dry, while their property was flooded by water from a former landfill site behind their home.

The evidence they have gathered is listed as covering medical reports, statements and test results, some of which has been shown to the BBC.

It also includes archives documenting munitions-testing on the land in the 1940s and waste-tipping in the 1960s.

Zane's parents are both environmental experts - Mr Gbangbola is a European buildings expert and Ms Lawler worked on the sustainability strategy for London 2012.

They said they believed the authorities knew the hazards and their son's death was "preventable".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
February 2014 saw 14 severe flood warnings on the Thames before the river burst its banks

They said there would be "massive" implications for the government, insurers and public if it was accepted Zane died from exposure to hydrogen cyanide gas from the former landfill site.

Mr Gbangbola said they wanted an independent panel inquiry because it could compel full disclosure by the authorities and he added: "There was absolute knowledge of the risk to life."

Ms Lawler said the 2014 floods that saw their son's death became the first incident linked to climate change by a UK prime minister, and she warned: "Floods are increasing and the climate is changing. This will happen again."

A petition calling for an independent panel inquiry has so far attracted more than 83,000 signatures.

Image caption,
Zane cared about the planet and had a passion for sports cars, his parents said

The BBC has approached the landowners for comment.

In a statement, the Environment Agency said: "There has been a public inquiry into the cause of death of Zane where the coroner provided a comprehensive decision and report on the inquiry. We have no further comment."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "This is a tragic case and our thoughts remain with the Gbangbola family.

"Throughout the inquest the Environment Agency provided detailed evidence to assist the independent coroner in reaching his conclusions."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
A petition calling for an independent panel inquiry has more than 83,000 signatures

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