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Claudia Winkleman relives Halloween fire that injured daughter

  • 5-14-2015

Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman has spoken for the first time about the serious burns her daughter suffered in a Halloween costume fire.

Matilda, eight, was in a witch's costume when it brushed against a candle at a house in London last year.

"We couldn't put her out," Winkleman told BBC One's Watchdog programme. "Her tights had melted into her skin."

Matilda has had several operations. Her surgeon is calling for tougher fire safety laws on fancy dress outfits.

Winkleman said: "She went up, is the only way I know how to describe it. It was not like fire I had seen before."

She added: "Like if your shirt caught fire or anything I could put it out.

"It was the tights that... they came back to life.

"It was like those horrific birthday candles that you blow out and then they come back."

Accident statistics show that 94 people in England were admitted to hospital as a result of their clothing either igniting or melting last year, of which 21 were children under 18.

Jorge Leon-Vallapalos, who treated Matilda at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said there was "a mini epidemic" of paediatric burn injuries "in certain periods of the year".

'Five quid outfit'

As part of an investigation to be screened on Thursday, Watchdog intends to highlight a legal flaw which classes fancy dress costumes as toys, rather than clothes.

That means they are subject to less rigorous safety tests than clothing.

Mr Leon-Vallapalos said he was in "no doubt" that had to change.

In her interview, Winkleman described how she had bought Matilda the witch's costume in a local supermarket for "five quid" last October.

It caught fire at a neighbour's house while the family were out trick-or-treating.

"I was talking to somebody, and then I just heard her scream," Winkleman said.

"She just screamed 'Mummy' and I turned round and that was that, she was just on fire.

"Everyone was screaming. She was screaming, all the kids there were screaming," Winkleman continued, her voice catching in her throat.

"It feels like she was on fire for hours but the surgeon said that definitely wasn't the case and it was probably just seconds."

'Shocking results'

Winkleman missed part of last year's series of Strictly Come Dancing following the accident.

Asked if Matilda's injuries were life-threatening, Winkleman replied: "It's life-changing but not life defining.

"It was definitely life-changing for me. I can't remember life before it."

Watchdog has tested the flammability of several costumes bought on the High Street, "with shocking results".

Winkleman said she hoped speaking about her experiences could prevent similar accidents.

"I would like parents to - just on Halloween, just to think about what they're going to put their kids in because I didn't, and it cost us".

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2015 BBC


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