Disabled Nelson woman’s burns death in cigarette tragedy

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A DISABLED woman died within minutes of dropping a cigarette which lodged in her wheelchair and resulted in terrible burns.

Miss Karen Storey (49) had awoken in the early hours at her flat in Rakeshouse Road and managed to alert emergency services via a pendant around her neck, but even though fire crews arrived just eight minutes later she could not be saved. She had suffered horrific burns to her body.

An inquest at Burnley Coroner’s Court heard how the fire, which started in the lounge around 3-20 a.m. on March 27th, led to the death.

Miss Storey was largely wheelchair-bound after suffering two strokes. Her carer, Miss Charlotte Branch, told the hearing she had visited her home three times that day and she was in “a fantastic mood”.

She added: “Karen was singing and seemed very happy. She enjoyed smoking but she did say she hadn’t been to bed for five nights.”

Watch manager Merrick Tomlinson, of Nelson Fire and Rescue, said fire crews reached the scene “unusually quickly” – just eight minutes – as they were returning from another incident at the time.

Miss Storey, he said, had an alarm on a pendant around her neck which she had used to contact the remote monitoring centre whose operator then alerted the emergency services.

He added: “After investigation, the origin of the fire was found to be the wheelchair which had two infilled sides.

“It would appear Miss Storey probably fell asleep and dropped a cigarette which lodged in her wheelchair. This trapped and insulated the cigarette. She was wearing a cotton dress which is the most flammable of all the natural materials. Due to the confined space there was sadly nowhere for the heat to dissipate.”

Pathologist Dr Abdul Al-Dawoud, who conducted the post-mortem examination, said Miss Storey suffered 95% burns. There was a 19% rate of carbon monoxide in her body which would not have been enough to cause death, but did mean she probably fell unconscious after a few minutes. He gave the cause of death as excessive burns.

Deputy East Lancashire Coroner Mr Mark Williams recording a verdict of accidental death said: “It is clear Miss Storey, who was a heavy smoker, had fallen asleep in her wheelchair and tragically dropped her cigarette which caused this fatal fire.”