HEATER SPARKED BLAZE WHICH CLAIMED LIFE OF NEWPORT PENSIONER

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Radiated heat from an electric heater sparked the blaze which killed pensioner Dennis Derek Driscoll in his own home in Newport, an inquest has today (Thursday) heard.

Mr Driscoll, 79, was killed on the morning of 6th April this year when his bungalow on Furlongs, Pan became engulfed by flames.

The Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service were called to the scene opposite the junction of Home Meade at just before 05:30 in the morning. Despite the first crews being on scene within minutes, Dennis’ life could not be saved.

Today’s inquest in Newport heard how the much-loved pensioner was a hoarder and lived in self-imposed squalor. Every room in the house – even the bathroom – was clogged with 1.2m high stacks of old newspapers and other items which he had collected over a period of 35 years.

The retired factory worker lived in the hallway of the dated bungalow which he acquired following the death of his parents in the early 1980’s. In the hallway he had a worktop hob; fridge; kettle; toaster; grill and radio, but none of them were plugged in.

Fire investigators from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service discovered that an electric heater was plugged in at the time of the fire and was most likely switched on at 1200W. A thorough examination of the scene revealed that radiated heat set fire to the piles of junk surrounding the heater before spreading throughout the property. The blaze quickly reached the roof space through an open loft hatch.

The fire was so intense that the plastic chair which Dennis would sit on had entirely disintegrated the time investigators reached his remains. Mr Driscoll had to be identified through DNA analysis having suffered third degree burns to his entire body. The temperature of the fire is said to have exceeded 500c.

Although no family members attended this afternoon’s inquest, they will have some peace in knowing that Mr Driscoll was asleep when the blaze ripped through his home. No attempts to escape were identified by fire investigation officers.

2 brand new smoke alarms were found in the garden of the corner bungalow, but sadly there were no smoke alarms fitted inside the property. The Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service had attempted to conduct a fire safety check in 2005 and again in 2013 but were refused entry both times.

At the time of the incident local residents expressed their sadness at the devastating news, claiming the elderly gentleman was a ‘sweetheart’ and would do anything for anyone. He would even give local children pocket money. He was known for walking the short distance to Morrisons each day to buy the reduced food.

In her closing statement, Caroline Sumeray, Coroner for the Isle of Wight said:

“Tragically, Dennis Driscoll didn’t have a smoke alarm, although I’m not convinced that if he did he would have been able to get out very quickly given the cluttered conditions. A smoke alarm may have given him a fighting chance.

“This case is an opportunity to warn members of the public of the importance of smoke alarms. If you have a smoke alarm, for heavens sake put it up. Also have a day where you check that the alarm is a functional device”.

Ms Sumeray recorded the death as an accident.

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