Coroner’s alert

The house on Leaway, Higher Ince, where a an 82-year-old man was rescued from a fire by neighbours Karl Heaver (left)  and Robert Barker
The house on Leaway, Higher Ince, where a an 82-year-old man was rescued from a fire by neighbours Karl Heaver (left) and Robert Barker

A WIGAN grandad died after suffering serious burns when an electrical appliance caught fire at his home.

In light of the tragic death of pensioner Leslie Cunliffe Deputy Coroner, Alan Walsh, and the fire service have issued a warning to people to ensure they unplug non-essential electrical items when not in use.

The inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court heard how Mr Cunliffe, 67, had been woken on September 16 last year either by the fire itself or by his smoke alarms, which had been fitted just 12 months before.

And although he was able to get out of the back door of his home on Leaway, Ince, he collapsed in an alleyway at the side of the house a short time later.

Two of his neighbours came to his aide after hearing the commotion and seeing the orange glow through the windows of the house.

After trying to break in through the front door on of the rescuers, Robert Barker, was alerted to the man’s whereabouts by Karl Heaver who was already at the scene and trying to get Mr Cunliffe to safety.

The court heard in a statement from Mr Barker that the men had tried to pick the retired joiner up and take him to safety, but by that time the fire was so advanced that it was burning directly above them and debris was falling onto them.

Mr Barker said: “When we got to Les he was lying motionless and face down. By now the house was well ablaze and flames were dripping onto his back.

“The only way we could get Les out was to lift his legs and drag him onto the front lawn, his T-shirt was smouldering.”

Mr Cunliffe, 67, was taken by ambulance to Wigan Infirmary.

The Fire Service conducted a full investigation and although it was established that the likely cause of the fire was an electrical appliance, because of the extent of the damage it could not be determined exactly what that was.

Mr Cunliffe had a makeshift bedroom in the open plan dining room and kitchen, because his mobility was poor and he struggled to use the stairs, and it was there that the fire started. The court heard that at Wigan Infirmary doctors had concerns about Mr Cunliffe’s treatment because of his existing health conditions, which included asbestosis, liver disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

It was also thought that he could have internal burns on his windpipe and so a tube was inserted to keep it open and aide his breathing.

Mr Christopher Lewis, consultant in Emergency Care, said: “I was concerned about the treatment we could provide Mr Cunliffe and thought it was more appropriate for a specialist burns team to be involved.”

Wigan Infirmary staff tried to transfer him to Wythenshawe Hospital, which is the regional centre for burns injuries, but clinicians there were reluctant to take him because they believed his prognosis was very poor.

Mr Ayub Khan, consultant in burns and plastic surgery at Wythenshawe, told the court: “With the extent of the patient’s burns plus the existing health problems on communication we thought it was better for him to be made comfortable in Wigan rather than be transferred.”

Mr Khan considered that the injuries were so severe that they could not be survived, but the tube was removed from his windpipe and the following day he seemed to have made an improvement so he was transferred.

On assessment doctors deemed that it was too dangerous to operate on the man and so they started treating him with creams, antibiotics, intravenous fluids and he was given gastric feeding to help get nutrients essential for recovery into his body.

But over the next 48 hours his condition deteriorated.

Mr Khan added: “At that time he was clearly told that things weren’t going well and explained that things were at an end.

“He understood that and told me to let his sister know.”

He was then started on terminal care treatment and died later that evening.

Deputy coroner, Alan Walsh, ruled that Mr Cunliffe’s death was accidental and recorded a verdict that he died as a result of multi-organ system failure.

He said: “If there is any benefit to be gained that is to warn people that plugs should be switched off. It is very dangerous to have plugs active in sockets when there are other fabrics close by, particularly around beds and that is sadly what led to the death of Mr Cunliffe.”

Mr Cunliffe’s daughter, Lesley Measey, said: “We want to thank everybody who was involved in dad’s rescue especially Robert Barker and Karl Heaver.”