Cornwall

Cawsand fire death likely caused by cigarette, inquest hears

Bungalow destroyed by fire
Image caption The fire at Polsporder Place, Cawsand, was most likely caused by a cigarette or lighter

A pensioner whose poor health left him unable to move or call for help when fire engulfed his home most likely died after dropping a cigarette, an inquest heard.

Ivor Houson, 79, had to "sit there" as flames tore through his bungalow in south east Cornwall in July 2015.

Neighbour Paul White wept in court as he described crawling into the smoke-filled house to try to save Mr Houson.

He was forced to retreat and the roof collapsed shortly after.

Image caption Fire crews said flames could have engulfed the room in which Mr Houson sat within two to three minutes.

The inquest heard Mr Houson, a heavy smoker, could not move from his chair unaided after suffering a stroke, and could barely speak as a result of throat cancer.

Fire investigators concluded the most likely cause of the fire was a cigarette or lighter he dropped on his clothes or chair.

Mr White described how he was alerted to the fire by another neighbour screaming for help, and twice went inside the property.

He broke down in tears as he told the court: "I went back on my hands and knees but the flames had taken hold of the room. There was nothing I could do, I had to go back out. A few minutes later the windows blew out and the fire really took hold."

Mr Houson was wearing a panic alarm which he activated at 17.43 BST, police said, but the fire had engulfed the building before fire crews arrived around 15 minutes later.

The Assistant Coroner for Cornwall, Guy Davis, concluded Mr Houson was killed by "fire-induced extensive burns and smoke inhalation" and the death was accidental.

Both the coroner and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service thanked Mr White for his "very brave attempts" at a rescue and said he made "two very commendable efforts" to save the elderly victim.

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