Father dies in Norfolk house fire during text conversation with daughter
- Credit: Archant
The last message Naomi Milburn received from her father was a typically tender one, asking after her and telling her how much he was looking forward to seeing her.
The pair were as close as it was possible to be. The 21-year-old's mother, Domminique, had died from ovarian cancer when she was just eight months old and her father, Christian, was devoted to her.
Indeed, he was living with his own parents, to help save up money to buy a house for him and his daughter.
But just moments after that message was sent from his mobile phone, Christian was killed, as a fire tore through the home he shared with his parents.
The 50-year-old was in a flat in the attic of the property, in North Elmham, near Dereham, when the blaze broke out. Despite the frantic efforts of his family to save him, he was unable to escape.
Speaking after an inquest into his death yesterday (Thursday), at Norwich Magistrates' Court, Naomi described how she had lost 'the most incredible father I could have ever asked for'.
A warehouse manager at C&D Foods, based in Thetford, Christian returned from work to the family home, at Old Hall Farm, on Eastgate Street, at about 5.45pm on March 19 last year.
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After joking with his mother Angela, 69, and sister Nikola, he went upstairs to his flat to call his daughter, about to move to London to study, because she had been unwell. Shortly after, there was a power cut in parts of the house and David, Christian's father, went upstairs to see if he could get the power back on.
As he made his way upstairs, the 71-year-old noticed flames inside an airing cupboard. He ran to get a fire extinguisher but within seconds the fire had engulfed the area.
David shouted to his wife and daughter to get out of the house, unaware that his son had returned home. Once outside, the family called up to Christian and Angela threw gravel at his window.
'We shouted at him to get out,' she said. 'I remember feeling frantic as I expected him to come to the window straight away. Eventually he flung open the window with such force it took it off the hinges. He looked out of the window, gasping for air and coughing. Then he vanished. It had all happened so quickly – it must have just been minutes.'
Shortly before this, Christian had been texting Naomi to see if she was feeling better and said he was looking forward to seeing her the next day. But when their conversation ended abruptly Naomi become worried.
At 9.30pm that evening she was told he had died.
Norfolk coroner Jacqueline Lake recorded a short narrative conclusion of the cause of death as medical from smoke inhalation and severe burns.