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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Carlisle pensioner already dead before fire ripped through flat

A disabled pensioner was probably already dead when a fire burned through his living room at a “frightening” speed.

Newtown Close house photo
Mr McCabe’s home in Carlisle

Terry McCabe, 68, was found dead in his flat in Newtown Close, Raffles, Carlisle, on September 19 last year. An inquest into his death heard that Mr McCabe had a number of health problems, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and difficulties with moving.

He was known to be a heavy smoker and often disposed of matches in a waste bin near his chair.

Following his death friends paid tribute to Mr McCabe, describing him as having a “solid gold heart of a lion”.

Dr David Roberts, coroner for the north and west of Cumbria, said that thetragic incident highlighted the need for fire safety.

Mr McCabe was badly burned but there was no evidence that he had suffered from smoke inhalation, leading to speculation that he had died as the result of severe burns.

But Dr Roberts said that it was likely Mr McCabe had died before the fire began as a result of a “cardiac event” and did not burn to death.

Dr Roberts said: “The frightening thing from my point of view is the speed that the fire has taken over.

“Although he had mobility problems, if he became aware of the fire I am satisfied that the instant thing he would do would be to seek to get away from the source of the fire. That leads me to the conclusion that he has been incapacitated by some other cause.

“The overall picture is of somebody who has been stubborn and determined and made the best of the cards life dealt him.”

Mr McCabe’s carer Annette Hamer had visited him less than an hour before the alarm was raised. She said he was acting normally and that nothing out of the ordinary happened.

He was pronounced dead at about 7pm after a smoke detector in his house automatically called fire services. Emergency crews arrived at the scene but could do nothing to save him.

Craig Drinkald, stations manager for Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service, agreed with Dr Roberts that Mr McCabe was probably dead before he was burned.

A test was carried out on the chair Mr McCabe was sat on which showed that it was extremely flammable.

Mr Drinkald said: “If he had been in a condition where he was aware of what was going on he would have attempted to move himself.

“My opinion is that there has been some sort of medical condition that led to the fire starting, rather than the fire causing the injuries.”

Dr Roberts gave a verdict of death by natural causes.

JJohnson@cngroup.co.uk

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