Blind man, 94, did not have smoke alarm in his home

PUBLISHED: 11:36 08 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:17 06 May 2010

A BLIND pensioner who died after a fireball engulfed his kitchen did not have a smoke detector, an inquest heard. Sidney George Champkin, a 94-year-old former hairdresser, died from a heart attack brought on by smoke inhalation and burns to the top of h

A BLIND pensioner who died after a "fireball" engulfed his kitchen did not have a smoke detector, an inquest heard.

Sidney George Champkin, a 94-year-old former hairdresser, died from a heart attack brought on by smoke inhalation and burns to the top of his head during the fire at his house in Monklands, Letchworth GC, on January 7.

His wife Rosina, who suffers from dementia and to whom he had been married for over 73 years, managed to escape the blaze. She currently lives in a residential care home in the town.

Mr Champkin was found unconscious in the lounge by emergency services after a fire had broken out in the kitchen at about 12.30pm while the couple were cooking lunch.

He was rushed to Lister Hospital but died three days later.

According to firefighter Peter Boast, of Herts Fire Service, the fire spread quickly through the kitchen with the help of exposed wood, polystyrene tiles and the kitchen carpet.

Mr Boast told the inquest last Thursday: "The kitchen would have been a complete fireball very quickly. There was moderate smoke damage in the lounge and it is here where Mr Champkin was found."

Mr Boast said that a smoke detector would have given the couple more time in which to escape from the house and reminded people that detectors do save lives.

"I would ask if people have got elderly relatives or neighbours at high risk, if they could check they have got smoke alarms fitted. If not, get the fire service in to do a fire risk assessment," he said.

Anne Ardley, of Howard Cottage Housing Association, said the couple had been offered smoke alarms on two previous occasions but had refused them.

Social worker Barbara Shering, who was a good friend of the couple, said: "My main concern was to support Mr Champkin in his caring for his wife. He was mentally alert and had a very good memory. He was also very determined and wanted to stay independent.

"I was very, very fond of them."

Mr Champin is survived by Rosina and their two daughters who live in Canada.

Coroner Edward Thomas recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by heart failure due to bronchial pneumonia and smoke inhalation.

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