Morecambe OAP suffered heart attack before flat fire

The scene on Marine Road East in Morecambe after a fire on Monday night.
The scene on Marine Road East in Morecambe after a fire on Monday night.
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A retired painter and decorator probably died before a fire started at his flat caused by a dropped cigarette, an inquest heard.

Thomas Barratt, 79, of Marine Road East, Morecambe, was a heavy smoker who refused to give up his habit, according to carers.

Neighbours battled in vain to break into his flat on July 20, 2015 after fire broke out.

Malcolm Dewhirst, a fire investigation officer for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said: “When we found him he was lying on his back in a reclining chair. The fire had developed around him to the left of his chair.

“The ashtray was on a round table directly above the bin in which he would drop his tissue paper. The cigarette could be dropped during a medical episode.”

He told the inquest that a Lifeline base unit in Mr Barratt’s bedroom was a communication link activated by him pressing his panic pendant.

He said: “We suggested the base unit was in the wrong location in his bedroom and should have been in the living room where smoking took place.”

Darren Day, a care worker at Bare Hall Quality Care for six years said: “He never stopped smoking - we begged him to stop but he was a very strong willed person and adamant there was no way his last pleasure on earth was going to be taken off him. He would smoke 40 cigarettes a day easily.”

Dr Justin Nkonge, consultant pathologist at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, said Mr Barratt may have died prior to or shortly after the fire had started.

Dr Nkonge said: “He suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and hypertension. Mr Barratt had quite significant heart disease to the extent at which a person could collapse at any time from a fatal heart attack.”

The cause of death was heart disease due to blocked coronary arteries.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

Area Coroner for Preston and West Lancashire, Claire Hammond said: “He was found in a horizontal position, his chair having melted during the fire.

“He suffered a cardiac event which resulted in his death and as a result he dropped the cigarette which was the cause of the fire, having fallen into a waste bin with tissue paper. The position of the Lifeline base unit was not a concern in Mr Barratt’s death.

“The most important thing is to have smoke detectors in the right place.”

Verdict: Natural causes.