Fatal house fire near Boston probably caused by 'precarious' gas heater overturning, inquest hears

Inquest told of fatal house blaze
Inquest told of fatal house blaze

A fatal house fire was probably started by a portable gas heater toppling over as the wheelchair-bound victim tried to turn it off, an inquest has heard.

Wheelchair-bound Richard Jackson (64) died from the inhalation of fumes from the fire at his home in Water Gate, Quadring Eaudyke.

A resumed inquest at Boston Coroner’s Court on Tuesday was told that the most likely event was that Mr Jackson had overstretched while reaching out to turn off the gas fire. He had fallen out of his wheelchair and the heater, which was on casters on the hearth, had come forward and fallen over face down on the carpet.

There was evidence that Mr Jackson had tried to right himself using the wall opposite the fireplace. However, the inquest heard that his efforts would have been impeded by the alcohol level in his bloodstream, which was four times the drink-drive limit, and he had ten times the therapeutic level of an anti-depressant drug he was on.

Mr Jackson had several health problems and he was due to have a leg amputated. He had last been seen alive in a local shop at about 4.30pm the day before he was found dead in his lounge on November 21, 2018. A neighbour of the semi-detached property had heard loud banging at about 9.30pm the previous night but this was not unusual.

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue investigator Richard Friend’s statement said the area of direct burning had been relatively small, about one square metre. The fire had penetrated through the carpet to the floorboard.

He wrote: “The most likely cause was accidental. The most probable hypothesis of this accident is that Mr Jackson most likely attempted to switch the LPG heater off before leaving the room.

"He’s overstretched from his mobility scooter and pulled the heater slightly towards himself. This would have caused the front set of castors on the heater to go over the front of the tiled heart, causing Mr Jackson to further lose his balance and fall to the floor, bringing the heater towards him.”

Mr Friend said the heater was “extremely precarious” when on the hearth and only required a movement of about two centimetres forward before the castors slipped off the edge.

Assistant coroner Richard Marshall gave a short narrative conclusion.