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Pendle lighter tragedy pensioner turned into human fireball
8:26am Thursday 24th January 2013 in Pendle
A PENSIONER died after being engulfed in flames while trying to refill his cigarette lighter, an inquest heard.
Now the sister of Douglas Hurst, 82, has pledged her support for a campaign by Lancashire firefighters to try to help elderly smokers stay safe.
Mr Hurst was was fatally hurt at his home in Barnwood Crescent, Earby, last March after trying to refill his Zippo lighter with fluid, the inquest was told.
Burnley Coroner’s Court was told that Mr Hurst, who suffered from tremors and was unsteady on his feet, may also have used scissors to widen the hole in the top of the lighter fluid can.
An investigation led by Watch Manager Steve Derby found that the can was only half-empty when it was discovered in the wreckage of Mr Hurst’s home.
The capacity of the lighter was only around five mililitres and it appeared that a large amount of fluid may have spilled onto Mr Hurst’s pullover.
The court heard that the protective plastic sleeve of the Zippo lighter had also been found in a bin nearby, which could have created a much larger flame, when it was ignited.
Mr Hurst’s sister, Janet Pickles, said she would be happy for any photographs of her brother’s home to be used in forthcoming safety campaigns.
Mr Derby said that advice would be given to the carers and family of people in postions like Mr Hurst’s regarding lighters after the tragedy.
Mr Hurst’s gardener, Sheldon Pickles, and drivers from the taxi service he regularly used had offered to help him fill the lighter but Mr Hurst said that he could manage, the inquest heard.
Mr Hurst was known to be a heavy smoker and had had problems with his balance.
Neighbours alerted the fire brigade when smoke was seen billowing from his bungalow.
Recording an accidental verdict, East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor said he had been assisted by a “very thorough” fire investigation report.
“If something postitive can came out of this tragic death, and firefighters have learned lessons from this incident, then that is something,” added Mr Taylor.
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