Inquest sprinklers call after OAP’s fire death

A coroner will write to the Government calling for sprinklers to be fitted in all new houses after a pensioner died when his chair caught fire in Ilkeston.

Dr Robert Hunter said he would write to the Secretary of State responsible for business and industry stressing how sprinklers save lives.

An inquest in Derby was told how Brian Wheatley died on his 80th birthday from burns after a blaze spread to the chair he was sitting in. It is thought the fire started in a nearby waste bin and could have been caused by one of the heavy smoker’s cigarettes.

The ex-publican was “immobile” in his chair and unable to move away from the flames. Neighbours – two of whom were commended by the Royal Humane Society for trying to save Wheatley’s life – put out the fire after hearing his smoke alarm. But the pensioner died of his injuries at the Queen’s Medical Centre the next day.

Sprinkler

A coroner will write to the Government calling for sprinklers to be fitted in all new houses after a pensioner died when his chair caught fire in Ilkeston.

Dr Hunter said: “I have the power to write to the authorities to bring to their attention certain things that could be changed to make things better following inquests.

“In this case I intend to write to the appropriate Government department asking them whether consideration should be given to fitting sprinkler systems in new build houses.”

Mr Wheatley’s inquest was told how neighbours Nicola Scott, Garry Mountford and Terry Truman were alerted to the fire in Springfield Gardens on July 29 last year.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Truman said Mr Mountford brought through a garden hose pipe to put out the flames. He said: “Flames were covering Brian’s left side which had spread up the chair legs. Garry put the flames out and I asked Nicola to open the windows. She sat with Brian giving him water until the fire service came.”

Fire investigator Steve Ratcliffe told the inquest the most likely cause of the blaze was waste in the bin setting fire. Dr Hunter said this could have been caused by a discarded cigarette or hot ash from a cigarette Mr Wheatley may have been smoking.

Dr Hunter asked Mr Ratcliffe: “If a sprinkler system had been fitted in this house would the fire have been put out more quickly?”

Mr Ratcliffe replied: “Yes.”

PC Ann-Marie Gregory said Mr Wheatley’s daughter had told her how her father was a heavy, life-long, smoker and that in his home there was a rug that “had numerous burns from when he had dropped ash and discarded cigarette ends”.

Dr Gurprit Atwal, the consultant pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination, gave the cause of death as “burn injuries”.

In reaching a conclusion that Mr Wheatley died as a result of an accident, Dr Hunter said: “I will find that the fire originated in the metal waste bin and spread to the armchair that Mr Wheatley was sat in.

“That may not have even been a discarded cigarette; it might have been some hot ash that might have dropped into the bin.”

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