Recent investigative report about Helsinki fire – father reacts

The father of the recent fire victims in Helsinki, Finland, Kwame Attah Owusu, has reacted to the report that was released by the Safety Investigation Authority of Finland (SIAF) and published by various media houses. According to a press statement released by Owusu, parts of the SIAF report are based on assumptions and opinions without any witness testimonies since all the witnesses involved in the incident died in the accident. Owusu is worried that these assumptions in the SIAF report might form the basis of the ongoing police investigation to the cause of the fire.

Below is the full report released by Owusu:

Mr Owusu has sent comments to the Safety Investigation Authority of Finland (SIAF) which published its interim report on the fire accident that led to the death of his wife and three children in Helsinki, Finland on the 9th December 2016. Family representatives met representatives of the SIAF on 23rd February to seek clarifications to the report and were requested to submit their comments in writing.

Mr Owusu notes that the task of the SIAF is to determine the nature of the accident in order to make recommendations for improving safety in homes through construction, educational, fire, and other regulations. However, the interim report of the SIAF has been widely published in Finland and abroad and might become the basis of the police report which is yet to be completed.

The report has been published as “fact-finding”, but he is worried that some parts of the report are assumptions and opinions based on the fact that no witness to the events in the flat survived.

Mr Owusu disputes the statement that: “Either the mother or one of the children aged 2–7 years had turned the controller knobs of the sauna stove. It is possible that the mother wanted to use the sauna for some purpose, despite the fact that she did not really know how to use it. Alternatively, one of the children may have turned the knobs without understanding their true purpose”.

According to Mr Owusu: ”It is not possible that my late wife or any of the children would have put on the sauna stove after I left for work. When I left for work at 9pm, the two older children (7 and 6 years old) were dressed up for bed. My late wife was showering our youngest child (2 years old). She usually put all the children to sleep by 10pm, as she sent them to day care, pre-school, and school early in the morning and went to language school herself. There is no reason why she would put on the sauna stove. She never touched it; it was I who always did it because the sauna was new to her and she did not really like to bathe in it.

The police have told us that information they got from her mobile phone shows that she was actively communicating after she put the children to sleep. Her friends in Finland and relatives in Ghana have confirmed that she communicated actively with them up to about midnight. So it is most highly unlikely that she or any of the children would have turned on the sauna heater knob to put it on.

The assumption that the sauna heater could have been put on much earlier in the day cannot be accurate because I was at home the whole day. I always hung my work uniform on the sauna seat bench when I came home and went there every night to dress up before work. I had gone into the sauna room to dress up for work that night too and would have noticed if the heater knob was turned on”.

Read More: Fire kills a Ghanaian mother and three children in Finland

Another issue concerns the open outer exit door. The report of SIAF states that: “…the mother did wake up and probably tried to help the children. Apparently, the mother had also checked the situation in the stairwell since the exterior door of the apartment was open when the rescue workers arrived. At that point, the interior door at the entrance was closed”.

According to Mr Owusu: ”It is remarkable that the exterior/entrance door of our apartment was open when the rescue workers arrived. I closed the door when I left to work as it has to be pushed in to close (with a small bang). I find the assumption that “Apparently, the mother had also checked the situation in the stairwell since the exterior door of the apartment was open when the rescue workers arrived”, to be inconsistent with other facts of the incident. This is a very important detail which should be investigated. According to members of the Investigation Authority when we met previously, the temperature of the area near the exterior door must have been up to 500C. The reason is that the bathroom door is immediately beside the exterior door. This is evidenced by the fire damage on the walls and ceiling, melting of ceiling lamp wire and wall electric switch. In a previous meeting one Official stated that it would have been impossible for my family to try to get out of the exterior door as it was very hot and burning in that area. When my deceased wife woke up, why would she walk beside the bathroom that was burning, with heat of about 500C, open the outer door to “check the stairwell”, then come back in and shut the door beside her? She would actually have been burned. But if she opened the exit door, with fire in the apartment, why would she not leave the door open and take out her children? Why would she not shout for help in the corridor, knock on one of the neighbour’s doors and ask for help (there are two neighbours beside the apartment)? As this is a big apartment building, the corridor of the staircase is spacious and would have been safe, so why would she come back into the apartment and close the door? She would, surely, have taken the children with her and then just escaped down the staircase!

I strongly believe that my deceased wife did not open that door. When walking to the children’s bedroom she would have noticed where the fire was coming from. She surely just collected the children and tried to get out through the balcony door, which she did not succeed in doing”.
Implications of the open entrance door
In the comment to SIAF Mr. Owusu states:

”The fact that the outer entrance door was open when the rescue services arrived is an important detail and its implications should be investigated and reported correctly. The interim report has created the impression that the family was responsible for their demise, which is very painful. The deceased are being blamed as responsible for the tragedy, on the bases of assumptions and in contradiction of some of the facts”.

The nature of the fire should be mentioned at this stage. The bathroom was completely burned. Every textile in the bathroom was burned, in addition to even the WC ceramic which was melted. This is remarkable as even the benches of the sauna were not totally burned. The timeline provided by the Investigation Authority and the Police shows that the two rooms burned for about 40 minutes. It seems more likely that the two rooms started to burn at the same time.

The circumstances of the fire raises the question if it could have been caused by an electrical fault of the sauna heater or an intruder. We have not been shown the sauna heater but the SIAF has told us that the fire was not due to an electrical fault. Here it should be mentioned that the bathroom door is immediately to the right of the entrance door and an intruder could easily enter the bathroom while the family slept at the other end of the flat. The structure of the flat is such that the bedrooms are at the other end and someone could enter quietly while family slept. This should be investigated”.

Yours Sincerely,
Statement released by Dr. Richard Owusu, Family representative.
Family member contact: Dr. Richard Owusu;; +358452749131

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