INQUEST: Family tried desperately to save OAP in Fleet fire

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An inquest has heard how the family of an 84-year-old tried desperately to deal with the flames that engulfed her during a house fire last year.

Vera Bunn, of Weydyke Bank between Fleet and Holbeach St John’s was pronounced dead on the scene during the blaze in the ‘granny’ annex of a property she occupied on January 8, 2015.

Boston Coroners Court was told yesterday (Wednesday) that the family lived on a plot of land which included three buildings – one was a garage, another detached property was occupied by Vera’s step-granddaughter and her partner and daughter.

The third was occupied by son Michael Bunn, his partner Dorothy Moira Bunn and their son Gary Edwards – with Vera living in a self-contained annex attached to the side of the property.

The inquest heard how on the night in question Vera and Dorothy had originally planned to play bingo but had had to return home after Vera was unable to get out of the car.

On returning home, Vera was ‘settled’ into a chair in her lounge and wrapped up with her halogen heater close to her – around 440mm away according to the fire investigation.

In statements from the family, the inquest heard how a short time later the electrics went and Dorothy went to get a torch where she noticed the smell and sight of smoke and called to her husband.

In his statement Michael said: “I went through and opened the door to my mother’s lounge. I saw my mother was fully alight and rushed into the kitchen to get the washing up bowl full of water and threw it over my mother but it had no effect.

“I went outside to the lounge window which was broken so we could put the garden hose through the window to spray it into the room – this had no effect either as the room was fully ablaze.”

Fire extinguishers were also fetched from a nearby business but also had no effect – leaving the family waiting for the fire service to deal with the blaze.

An investigation by the fire service confirmed that the main area of the fire had been around Vera’s chair and branched out through the rest of the property from there.

A report said that fire officers had been able to see that Vera was dead when they arrived on scene and because of that had left her in situ while they dealt with the fire.

It said however, that it was ‘very difficult to determine’ whether the blaze had been caused by either a smouldering source such as a cigarette or a flaming source such as a lighter or the halogen heater.

A post mortem revealed the body was severely burnt in the blaze with the legs and arms showing severe fire damage.

However, it said internal organs were well-preserved.

It said there was no evidence of traumatic injury prior to the death and concluded the death was due to fire-related suffocation and burns.

Assistant coroner Maurice Spittle concluded the circumstances of the inquest that at 7.30pm, Vera was found ‘engulfed in flames’ and perished.

He acknowledged that the fire service had identified the cause as either the hallogen heater or carelessly discarded smoking materials – including either a smouldering cigarette or a lighter.

He said Vera was known to be a heavy smoker and also read from her GP report that she suffered from mixed dementia – including Alzheimers. He recorded the medical cause of death as one: fire related suffucation and burns, and two: mixed dementia.

He gave a verdict of accidental death.