Alarm might have saved woman’s life
5:30am Thursday 20th February 2014 in By Elizabeth Mackley
FIRE victim Victoria Stockman might still be alive if a working smoke detector had been installed in her Rodbourne flat, an inquest heard.
The hearing, at the Coroner’s Court in Salisbury yesterday, heard that the 33-year-old business co-ordinator with IMSM died after a cigarette end set fire to a quilt on the sofa in her flat in Redcliffe Street on 1 May last year.
Vicky was discovered by firefighters unconscious and not breathing on the floor of the flat, less than a metre away from her front door near to the burning sofa and an overturned table.
Suffering from 45 per cent burns and a hypoxic brain injury, associated with a lack of oxygen to the brain, Vicky was rushed first to the Great Western Hospital.
She was transferred in the early hours of May 2 to the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, but despite undergoing a series of operations including skin grafts, she lost her fight for life at 9.23pm on May 9.
Vicky’s mother Isabella Stockman, 62, said: “There was a knock on the door at about 1am on May 2 and we were told that Vicky had been in a fire. I couldn’t believe it.
“On May 9 the doctors took the decision to take her off the ventilator. At around 9.20pm I held her hand as they took her off the machine.”
David Coward, assistant coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon, recorded a verdict of accidental death, but said that the presence of a smoke alarm at the rented dwelling could have given Vicky vital seconds to make good her escape.
He said: “The fire was a result of Vicky discarding an ignited cigarette on the cover of the settee and this caused substantial smouldering and produced a fire and a substantial amount of smoke.
“The lack of a smoke detector to give an alarm and precious minutes or even seconds in this case were lost to Vicky.”
Roger Richens let the flat to Vicky and her partner of ten years, Brian Samways, and admitted that no smokedetector was installed at the property, which he did not usually let out to tenants other than his brother, Dennis Richens and his partner Mandy Brotherstone.
The landlord from Blunsdon who owns and lets 20 properties in Swindon, did say, however, that the alarms are installed at all other properties in the town.
Speaking after the inquest, Vicky’s father Peter Stockman, 63, said: “He said it was accidental, so it was accidental.
“I wish that the landlord had been held more accountable. It just seems a bit vague about what we can do and what can be done.”
Firefighters were called to the converted Victorian terrace house at around 10.20pm on May 1 after Mandy Brotherstone returned home from work and found the house engulfed in black smoke and her partner, Dennis, trapped in the upstairs flat. As well as smoking paraphernalia including a pouch of rolling tobacco, papers and filters, firefighters also found two nearly empty 35cl bottles of vodka near to the sofa.
Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service’s group manager Ian Jeary, who led the fire investigation, said that Vicky would only have had to inhale three or four breaths of smoke before it caused her to pass out.
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