- Zane Gbangbola died during heaviest floods in UK for 248 years in February
- Allegedly killed by faulty pump at riverside home in Chertsey, Surrey
- New evidence suggests carbon monoxide seeped from petrol-driven pump
- Substance has left his father Kye paralysed from the waist down
- Grief-stricken parents fear cover-up as they 'had not used the pump'
- Scientists say 'gas used in Nazi camps could come from nearby landfill site'
New evidence has emerged that toxic hydrogen cyanide may have leached from a lake at the back of the home where schoolboy Zane Gbangbola tragically died during the heaviest flooding to hit Britain in 248 years.
His grief-stricken parents now fear there has been a cover-up, as police continue to insist Zane died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a petrol-driven pump at their riverside home, even though the Gbangbolas insist they did not use it.
Meanwhile, Public Health England officials and environmental experts have uncovered evidence of hydrogen cyanide at the riverside property in Chertsey, Surrey, which still remains sealed off six months after the tragedy.
Scientists have told The Mail on Sunday that the deadly gas – used in the Nazi death camps – could have come from the former landfill site that stands just 20 yards from the back of the family’s home, as the rising water table could have pushed cyanide gas up through the landfill soil, generating hydrogen cyanide.
As floodwater clogged the basement, gas bubbles could have risen up into the house with tragic consequences.
The family were rushed to hospital in the early hours of February 8, after a call from Zane’s mother Nicole Lawler, 37, who had found both Zane and his father Kye, 48, unconscious. Zane was pronounced dead on arrival, while medical tests confirmed there were traces of hydrogen cyanide in his parents’ blood.
Kye, a company director, has been left paralysed from the waist down and still attends almost daily hospital appointments. A consultant neurophysiologist has confirmed his medical condition is caused by exposure to hydrogen cyanide.
Firefighters evacuated the area after their personal alarms were triggered by the presence of the gas. A total of 17 people were rushed to hospital and checked for signs of poisoning, but the only casualties were Zane and his parents.
Later the same day, teams from Public Health England (PHE) and the Environment Agency descended, scouring the flood-hit area in biological suits.
PHE has confirmed hydrogen cyanide was present. The couple have been advised not to return home – even to collect belongings or precious photos of their only child.
Yet authorities are now accused of refusing to investigate the landfill site. Meanwhile, Zane’s parents are still waiting for a date to be set for their son’s inquest – despite new rules that mean inquests should be completed within six months of a death, unless there are good reasons for a delay.
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition demanding ‘a national debate’ on the risk of toxic gas leaching from landfills during floods, as Zane’s parents claim they face a ‘wall of silence’ from the authorities.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Kye said: ‘It’s been six months since Zane’s death and people are still at risk. It’s obvious there are powers that don’t want this to come out.’
A million tonnes of hydrogen cyanide are still produced globally each year, and it is used in many industrial processes from paper-making to electroplating metal. Regulations around its disposal are tight, but that has not always been the case.
An initial post-mortem examination on Zane was inconclusive, but his parents say the pathologist was not told to test Zane’s blood for the presence of hydrogen cyanide – which disappears from the body within 48 hours.
According to Surrey Police, further tests have found the cause of death to be ‘carbon monoxide poisoning’.
Yet Kye and Nicole insist there was no possible source of carbon monoxide in their all-electric house. Kye said: ‘How can they say our son died from a substance that was not in our house, yet not look at the substance we now know was and has left me maimed?’
Copy linkSurrey Police released a public statement on Zane’s cause of death less than 24 hours after 800 local residents attended a heated public meeting on the floods, during which suspicions were raised about whether hydrogen cyanide was responsible.
‘The area was landfill from the 1940s until the 1970s,’ said Kye. ‘Nicole and I now cannot live in our own home because of the gas activity that’s been found there. We can’t even go to get our belongings. It is heartbreaking that we are now six months down the line and still have not got to the truth.’
But Surrey County Council insists the former gravel pit site was filled in with building rubble rather than industrial waste before being converted into a lake and field, although some residents claim the area was known as ‘the dump’ for decades.
A joint statement from Surrey Fire and Rescue and Surrey County Council said: ‘Abbeyfield is not a landfill site in the usual sense, it is a former quarry restored as a landscaped lake.
‘The landfill referred to is rubble used in constructing its banks.’
But Kye said that Public Health England (PHE) wrote to him in May, warning him that as traces of the toxic gas had been found in the house, they should not return home.
PHE would not comment other than to say: ‘We have not identified any evidence suggesting there is a public health risk, or hazard to neighbouring properties.’
Last night experts called for a full investigation into the tragedy.
‘Questions need to be answered,’ said Nick Walton, a leading environmental hydrogeochemist with 25 years’ expertise. ‘Almost anything can come up from a landfill site going back to the 1940s. The problem with older sites is we don’t really know what’s gone in there.’
David Rudland, chair of Environmental Protection UK’s land quality committee, said: ‘There are landfill sites that have taken large amounts of industrial waste, including cyanide, in the past, and it’s a possibility that dangerous material could be mobilised if the landfill site wasn’t particularly water-tight.’
Neighbour Ian Berry, 44, a finance broker, told The Mail on Sunday that he was told he may have 15 minutes to live when firefighters knocked on his door at 5am on the night Zane died. He was among the 17 neighbours taken to hospital as a precaution by emergency service.
He recalled: ‘We were woken up at an ungodly hour. Two firemen came and said, “Zane has passed away and Kye and Nicole are in hospital.” I was told by both the fire brigade and the police that it was hydrogen cyanide. The fireman said death happens quite quickly, and that if it was in our blood we had got 15 minutes.
‘I don’t see how they can say carbon monoxide killed Zane. The only thing that could have caused carbon monoxide poisoning is the petrol-driven pump and I know they didn’t use it because I would have heard it.’
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said it would not comment while police inquiries were continuing, referring all questions to Surrey Police. A police spokesman said: ‘There’s no evidence of any wider risk to members of the public.’
"This substance killed Zane and left me maimed. How can they leave it at that?"
Asked if there was any indication of hydrogen cyanide either at the property or in Zane’s blood, the police spokesman replied: ‘I can’t comment on any of the medical testing as that was done externally and by independent experts.
'We go by whatever information is put to us and the result is that the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. We can’t comment on [whether the pump had been used or not] as that’s part of the investigation.’
The ex-landfill site is owned by gravel company Brett Aggregates.
Last night, a statement from the firm said: ‘While to date we have no reason to believe there is any link between this site and the awful tragedy that has befallen the Gbangbola family, we have made it clear that we will give complete cooperation to any authorities wishing to investigate the background to this incident.’
Meanwhile, Kye and Nicole continue to fight for answers. Kye said: ‘Zane spent his short life helping others, now Zane needs some help. We cannot replace Zane. But can try to protect others. If we can find answers for Zane, we can protect others.’