Electrical fault started fatal fire

'Pegasus', 61 Station Road, after the fire

'Pegasus', 61 Station Road, after the fire

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An inquest into the death of a man who died in hospital after being rescued from a Port Erin house fire has recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Edmund Campion Morrison, who was 91, was injured in the fire at his home in Station Road on February 14, and later died in hospital on February 23.

The official cause was given as pneumonia and smoke inhalation.

Mr Morrison was also said to be suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at the time of his death and an examination also showed signs of possible lung cancer.

Coroner of inquests John Needham read out written statements from 18 witnesses after which Douglas Fire Station Commander, Nigel Cain, and Manx Electricity Authority electrical engineer Alan Capon both gave oral evidence.

The deceased’s wife, Jean Morrison, had been making broth in the kitchen of the couple’s bungalow ‘Pegasus’ at 61 Station Road.

She said that she had seen her husband walk past the doorway and go into their front bedroom carrying an electric heater.

He then shouted: ‘Get some wet towels’ to his wife who then handed some to him at the bedroom door.

Mrs Morrison said that when she returned to the kitchen the next thing she knew she was being ushered out of the house by a woman she did not know.

The woman was Linda Preston who said that she had been driving along Station Road when she had seen thick smoke coming from the bungalow.

Ms Preston said that there were red hot flames coming from a front window which was cracked so she entered the house and shouted ‘Hello’.

She went to the kitchen and found Mrs Morrison who she helped outside.

Mrs Morrison said: ‘Don’t forget my husband’, so Ms Preston went back inside the house but found an interior door handle too hot to touch so she went back outside.

Paul Renshaw, who lives across the road, said that he saw smoke coming from his neighbour’s house and went in to find Ms Preston helping Mrs Morrison out of the house so he assisted them.

He said that he could not see for the smoke, but he could hear ‘grunting noises’ and tried the kitchen door but it was too hot to touch so he went back outside.

Passer by John Morton also ran into the house and said that there was black swirling smoke with flames reaching the ceiling.

He shouted ‘Anybody there’ but got no reply. He went to the side of the house where he met Mr Renshaw and the two women leaving the house.

Mr Morton said that the window then cracked and blew out.

Ambulance services and firefighters had arrived on the scene and Mr Morrison was rescued from the blaze. His face and arms were said to be ‘black with soot’ and his forehead and ears were burned.

Mr Cain, who prepared an expert report in respect of the fire, said that in conclusion, the most likely point of origin had been the area of an electrical socket in the front bedroom and that the cause had been electrical due to a fault or physical damage to the socket.

There was no evidence of smoking or deliberate fire and the portable heater was not plugged in at the time of the fire.

Mr Cain said that there was no evidence an appliance was at fault and that plug and socket were the most likely ignition source.

There was no evidence of smoke alarms fitted and strong winds blowing on the day may have intensified the fire after the window broke.

Electrical engineer Mr Capon said that there was no evidence of earth leakage protection being connected in the original installation of the house in the mid 1960s which suggested that the property wasn’t wired in accordance with regulations.

Mr Needham said in closing: ‘On the balance of probability there seems to have been a fault causing heat which resulted in a fire starting.

‘The historical electrical installation was inheritantly unsafe due to the lack of an earth connector. How the house came to be connected in this way is a matter of mystery and not something that cannot be investigated after this length of time.’

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