Son's shock at finding mum and sister dead in his burger van that they were decorating for a birthday surprise

15 February 2023, 11:13 | Updated: 15 February 2023, 11:19

Tyla Wanstall shared his shock and finding his mother and sister dead
Tyla Wanstall shared his shock and finding his mother and sister dead. Picture: Facebook

By Kit Heren

A young man has shared his anguish at finding his mother and sister dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in his burger van, which they had been redecorating for his 26th birthday.

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Tyla Wanstall said he was heartbroken to find his mother Leah Churchill, 50, and "beautiful baby sister" Brooke, 17, lifeless on the floor of the Meat 'N' Greet Snack Wagon on Tuesday morning in Whitstable, in Kent.

Mr Wanstall thinks that the mother and daughter had unwittingly poisoned themselves by turning on the generator in the van to keep themselves warm while they worked.

The generator is used outside during working hours so is safe, but is kept inside for security reasons when no one is using the van.

Mr Wanstall made the tragic discovery when he arrived for work at 8am yesterday, and was surprised to see his mother's car parked near the van.

Mrs Churchill and Brooke
Mrs Churchill and Brooke. Picture: Facebook

"It's heartbreaking to think they spent their last few moments just trying to put a smile on my face," he said.

Mr Wanstall told the MailOnline: "They were decking the van out inside in balloons and bunting as a birthday surprise for me, like my mum would do at home every year. 

"I didn't even know they were going down there last night but she must have started the petrol generator up to keep warm without realising the danger."

Mr Wanstall added: "I opened the van door and and saw my mum and sister and for an instant thought they had fallen asleep.

Tyla Wanstall made the tragic discovery
Tyla Wanstall made the tragic discovery. Picture: Facebook

"I smelt fumes but it just didn't register straight away, but it became obvious they were both dead. I called the police and ambulance but it was the firefighters who told me it was likely carbon monoxide poisoning."

Brooke had just left school and begun working as a carer, Mr Wanstall said. "She had her whole life in front of her," he added.

"She did really well in her grades and had just started work as a carer, which she was really enjoying. She was also due to take her driving test next week."

Her sister, Ocean, said that Brooke "tried working in the van a couple of times but that definitely wasn't for her.

"Working as a carer was what put the spring in her step and the only thing she wanted to do."

Both had previously helped out in the van
Both had previously helped out in the van. Picture: Facebook

Mother-of-four Ms Churchill lived in nearby Canterbury and worked in the hospitality industry.

"She was so kind and would do anything for anyone.She would take a homeless man in off the streets if she was allowed. Brooke was just a live-wire with a huge personality.

"Mum worked all over the place, mostly in hospitality, and used to run the Share and Coulter pub in Greenhill.

"She was helping me in the burger van a couple of days a week."

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Mr Wanstall warned others not to make the same "fatal mistake" as his mother.

"Be aware of this thing, people," he said.

"If you haven't got a carbon monoxide alarm, go and get one. It is a serious killer. I don't know how we're ever going to get over this."

The family are planning to release balloons on Herne Bay beach in memory of Brooke and Ms Churchill.

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