A Warwick man who was known as one of the district’s best dominoes players died after a cigarette he had been smoking set fire to his bedding and bed clothes while he was asleep, an inquest has heard.
Alan ‘Dino’ Duncan, who lived in sheltered housing in Grange Close, had been carried out of his flat by firefighters and then taken by ambulance first to Warwick Hospital and later to the burns unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he died as a result of the severe burns he had sustained and smoke inhalation.
The inquest, which took place at the Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington on Friday, heard how on the night of January 27 going in to the morning of January 28 this year Warwick District Council’s Lifeline service office had received two alerts from Mr Duncan’s manual trigger at 11.41pm and 11.43pm.
The operator had no response from Mr Duncan on the telephone so attempted to contact his daughter.
Jacky Oughton, the sustaining tenancies manager for the council who is responsible for Lifeline, explained that the service was there to provide a communications link for tenants through both a fixed alarm cord and a pendant which they would keep to hand and that an officer would normally go out to a property within 45 minutes if a situation had been deemed and emergency or “as soon as they could” if not.
In this case response officer Gerald Watts said he left the office at about 12.25am and was at Mr Duncan’s flat within “probably ten to 12 minutes”.
When Mr Watts arrived he went into the flat and, having seen a small amount of smoke, checked Mr Duncan’s bedroom where upon opening the door and seen “black smoke billowing out”, which set off the fire alarm, he made a 999 call and made sure other residents were safe.
Firefighters, using breathing apparatus, carried Mr Duncan out of the building but he was announced dead at 6.20am later that morning.
Fire investigator Tim Sargent, of Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, also gave evidence at the inquest.
He said that there was a ‘fire door’ to the bedroom which could be well sealed and that this was probably the reason why no smoke had escaped from the room and set off the alarm earlier.
Having inspected the scene, Mr Sargent said the evidence he found, which included smoking materials on the trolly near to Mr Duncan’s bed and an empty vodka bottle, suggested the deceased may have had “something to drink” and then dropped a cigarette on his clothes or bedding when he fell asleep.
Mr Duncan, 59 and a divorced father-of-three, had several underlying health problems and suffered from a lack of mobility which had made it difficult for him to get out of the bed.
Mr Sargent said: “These were very tragic circumstances. It would appear he had woken up and fallen out of the bed and managed to press the alarm button.”
Dean, Mr Duncan’s son, questioned whether somebody could have gone to check on his father as soon as the first notification had gone through to Lifeline.
He said: “In the past when there had been an incident he had never raised the alarm without there being a need for somebody to attend.
“If somebody had fallen and broken their hip they could be lying in agony for a long time.
“I think lessons need to be learned.”
Returning a verdict of accidental death, coroner Simon Charlton - like Mr Sargent - described the circumstances as “tragic”.
Speaking to the deceased’s family, Mr Charlton said: “I give you my condolences. I am sorry for your loss.”
Mr Duncan, a former excavator driver who retired on grounds of ill health, was born in Leamington and was one of 12 children.
He was regarded as one of the great characters of the Leamington & District Domino League and formed part of last season’s Jet B team who were league and cup double winners.
He was looking forward to the new season with the team.
A few days after Mr Duncan’s death his nephew Gerald, who is the secretary of the league, said: “Uncle Dino will be missed by everyone.
“The reason I play today is because he taught me.”