Inquest hears of incredible bravery of blaze victim, aged 92

A CORONER has praised the ‘incredible fortitude’ of a 92-year-old man who put himself out after catching fire. Charles Henry Smith, of Natland, suffered first degree burns while tending to an open fire in his property.

He managed to call an ambulance for himself but died in hospital the next day.

Fire Investigating Officer Conrad Leather said that remnants of Mr Smith’s bodywarmer were discovered in the fire grate, meaning he had probably been ‘engulfed in the fire.’

A post mortem examination revealed that the former fisherman and bailiff of Levens Hall had heart disease.

The inquest was told that it was thought he might have had a dizzy spell, while leaning over the fire and the man-made fibre hunting jacket provided fuel for the fire.

Mr Smith came round and managed to drop to the floor, put the fire out and call an ambulance.

His neighbour Andrew Garnett described rushing over to Mr Smith’s home after seeing blue ambulance lights and Mr Smith sitting in a dining room chair.

“He was very, very burnt and had nothing on his top half,” said Mr Garnett.

“He was conscious and he said to both me and the ambulance man that a spark had hit him from the fire.”

But Mr Leather said: “If he had been in his chair and something had spat out at him it would have been very unusual for him to have then gone to the fire.”

Coroner Ian Smith described Mr Smith as ‘a very stoical, proud man’. “The fact that he was able to put out the fire, ring an ambulance, explain what had happened while sitting there in a terrible state from the burns he’d suffered, and survive into the next day, all says a great deal about his fortitude.

“When you have heart disease to this degree it is very easy to have a momentary lack of blood pressure and to become a bit faint and lose balance.”

The man-made fabric of his bodywarmer caught fire, but his woollen pullover and cotton vest, which were made of natural fibre, did not burn.

“The immediate cause of death is burns but underlying and relevant to it happening at all and to his ability to recover from the burns is heart disease.”

A verdict of accidental death was recorded.

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