Atwilda Brown, an 80-year-old woman, died trying to pour herself a cup of hot chocolate. As she reached across the electric stove to get a teapot full of hot water in her kitchen on a Saturday night in February 2005, the sleeve of her chenille robe brushed against the stove’s burner and caught fire. Reports indicate the elderly woman ran to her bedroom trying to put out the flames engulfing her robe as her disabled husband looked on. But by the time she threw the robe to the floor it was too late. More than 35% of her arms and back were burned and she died a few weeks later after being transferred to a Burn Center.
Mrs. Brown is one of at least nine people across the country to die of burns suffered when their robes, sold by the Blair Corp. of Warren, Pennsylvania, caught fire, according to federal officials. The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Mrs. Brown’s family in U.S. District Court in Hartford, alleging that the company made robes made of flammable material from Pakistan without doing the proper testing. It’s also alleged that the robes were designed in a manner that turned them into fire traps when ignited.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, which already has recalled Blair’s chenille full-length robes like the one Mrs. Brown was wearing, expanded the recall to include any chenille tops and jackets made by the same Pakistani manufacturer and sold by Blair. All told, more than 300,000 robes have now been recalled. A CPSC spokesman, Scott Wolfson, had this to say:
This robe is highly flammable, flames travel quickly up the robe. It is a deadly risk to women.
It was reported that Mrs. Brown’s robe, with a matching pair of slippers, arrived in late January 2005 and was the latest in a long line of garments she had purchased from Blair, a company known to market clothing to older women. She stayed home on the night of the fire to care for her husband rather than go to their daughter’s 60th birthday party. Her family didn’t know what caused the robe to ignite and burn so quickly. And, it wasn’t until four years later that they got a clue to what happened and the information came from the Blair Corp. The company sent a recall letter, dated in April of this year, to Mrs. Atwilda Brown, warning her that the robe she bought in January 2005 was highly flammable. Obviously, this notice came much too late to save her life!
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