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New Zealand Plumbers, Drainlayers & Gasfitters Association Inc

New Zealand Plumbers, Drainlayers & Gasfitters
Association Inc

Latest News / Gas-fitter never inspected work before 12-year-old's fatal shower

STUFF – 23rd January 2021

The gas unit complete came with a warning label over its installation.

A 12-year-old boy died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a gas-fitter signed off a hot water unit that never should have been installed in the bathroom the boy used.

Jesse Samuel, of Alexandra, was found slumped in a small shower unit at his family's holiday home in Haast on October 10, 2018.

Gas-fitter Michael Cartwright and plumbing company Central Plumbing Ltd, which trades as Laser Plumbing Alexandra, will be sentenced following the boy’s death in the Dunedin District Court next week.

Cartwright and his company pleaded guilty last year to two charges under section 125 of the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act (2006).

The summary of facts says Gary Hale, a registered plumber and gas-fitter who co-owns Laser Plumbing Alexandra with Cartwright, was employed by the Walker family to install a gas hot water unit in a portable bathroom.

A picture of the shower unit where 12-year-old Jesse Samuel died.

Cartwright, a certified gas-fitter, was responsible for certifying Hale’s work.

Brendon Walker, Jesse’s uncle, purchased the Bosch gas hot water unit in September 2016, and was told by the retailer that it was suitable for the small bathroom unit.

The bathroom was initially used at Walker’s home in Alexandra while his property was being renovated. A shower, basin, toilet and sliding window were later added.

The gas water heater was described as an open flued instantaneous water heater. It worked by taking fresh air from the room it was installed in, and used that air for combustion, the summary said.

A close-up of the warning sticker on the gas water unit.

To avoid carbon monoxide entering the room, the unit had to be installed in such a way that the room would have adequate ventilation, while the combustion would be vented from the flue.

Instructions for the appliance included a warning about how it should be installed, and a warning sticker was attached to the unit itself.

The sticker urged the installer to read the instructions, and stated the unit should not be installed in a bathroom.

Hale installed the water heater inside the bathroom, but did not raise any concerns about it with Brendon Walker.

Cartwright will be sentenced in the Dunedin District Court next week.

Hale was a tradesman gas-fitter, so his co-director, Cartwright, had to certify the installation.

The summary of facts states Cartwright never visited the bathroom, did not inspect the water heater or carry out any tests, and did not question Hale about his work.

The Walker family always opened the bathroom window and used an extractor fan when using the shower because the unit filled up with steam otherwise.

In 2017, the pipework split and Walker asked Hale to repair it. His company was not able to do the work though, and the unit was sent to a Wanaka-based firm.