Flat fire that killed 77-year-old started by crushed cables in electric chair

Frank Smith died in a fire in Blackbourne View assisted accomodation home in July 2019. Picture: MAR

Frank Smith died in a fire in Blackbourne View assisted accomodation home in July 2019. Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI - Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI

A crushed wire in an electric armchair lead to a fire which killed a 77-year-old man in his flat in Ixworth, an inquest has heard.

Frank Smith was living in assisted accommodation at Blackbourne View residential home near Bury St Edmunds when a fire broke out in the early hours of July 6, 2019.

The emergency services rushed to tackle the blaze in the block of flats, in Peddars Close but sadly, Mr Smith was pronounced dead at the scene.

An inquest into the circumstances surrounding his death was held at Suffolk Coroners Court in Ipswich today.

The court heard how care worker Gemma Wade was alerted to the fire after an alarm sounded at around 1am before going to the first floor with a colleague to investigate.


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The pair saw smoke circulating around light fittings along the hallway and on opening Mr Smith’s door, they were met with a wall of thick, black smoke which was too intense to enter.

They then called 999 and waited for the fire service to arrive.

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Mr Smith was described as “a nice man” who loved acting by his son David.

“He was a shy man but on stage he came alive,” he said.

Questions were raised during the hearing about both the functionality of the fire alarms in Mr Smith’s room and the safety of an electric chair he was been given by the residential home when he moved in.

However, Station Commander Mark Walker who lead the fire service investigation into the incident said that the alarms did “exactly what they were supposed to do”.

He also dismissed the suggestion that Mr Smith, who was a heavy smoker, had dropped a cigarette which had started the “fast and intense” fire.

The fire officer concluded that the seat of the fire was in the lower left side of the electric chair where a wire, which had become misplaced, had been trapped by the chair as it was lowered into the sitting position.

Concluding the inquest, area coroner Jacqueline Devonish said: “Frank Smith died as a result of a low voltage fire starting from cables routed through the side of an electric armchair and through the rise and fall mechanism whilst sitting in the chair.”

She listed his medical cause of death as smoke inhalation with carbon monoxide poisoning.

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