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Inquest told Gower OAP caught in cottage fireball

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 07, 2012

A GOWER pensioner may have been caught in a powerful explosive backdraught during a blaze in his cottage, an inquest has heard.

When firefighters forced their way into his burning house they found 75-year-old Jack Vincent Vernon on the floor near the door to his living room.

He was pulled from the burning Parkmill cottage and firefighters performed CPR on him for 20 minutes before he was rushed to Morriston Hospital.

However, despite the efforts for fire crews and medics the retired heating engineer could not be revived.

An inquest into Mr Vernon's death heard that the alarm was raised at around 5.50pm on October 8 last year by a woman and her son who had visited nearby Three Cliffs Bay and who saw smoke coming from the eves of his cottage.

The widower was formally pronounced dead in hospital at 7.20pm that night.

The following day the cottage was examined by police, fire and forensic experts.

Mark Williams from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue was one of those who tried to piece together the circumstances of the death.

He told the inquest he believed the fire had been smouldering for "some time" in the front room of the cottage, and that Mr Vernon could then have opened the closed door to the room which led to an influx of oxygen and a sudden re-ignition of the hot gases inside — a backdraught.

He added: "A backdraught is an explosive event."

The fire expert said that after ruling out causes such as an electrical fault, it was likely that the original source of ignition may have been a paraffin lamp that was found in the room, or candles — candles had been found in other rooms of the house which had melted in the heat of the blaze, even though the fire itself was contained to the living room.

The inquest heard evidence that Mr Vernon had burns on his upper body consistent with his clothes having been on fire, and that the cause of his death was exposure to fire and fire effluent, the gases produced by combustion.

South Wales Police detective sergeant Stuart Prendiville told the hearing there was no evidence of a break-in at the cottage prior to the fire, or of any "third party" involvement in the incident.

The corner Philip Rogers said: "On the balance of probabilities I am satisfied this fire started accidentally.

"The most likely source was the paraffin lamp which was found at the scene, but why Mr Vernon was using the lamp at that time or why he may have left it are matters we cannot be sure about."

He recorded a finding of accidental death.

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