Gas fire warning after young man's death

A CORONER has warned homeowners to ensure gas fires are properly maintained after a young man died from carbon monoxide poisoning when he and his brother were overcome by fumes.

A CORONER has warned homeowners to ensure gas fires are properly maintained after a young man died from carbon monoxide poisoning when he and his brother were overcome by fumes.

Greater Suffolk coroner Peter Dean issued the advice during an inquest into the death of Kelvin Massey, who died at his Shimpling home on October 21, just days before his 21st birthday.

Kelvin and his brother Kevin, 20, were overcome with fumes from a mobile gas fire in a portable building behind the village's Bush Inn, where they lived with their parents Joe and Sue Massey.

The brothers had been sleeping in the building after a spending a night out together in nearby Bury St Edmunds.


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During yesterday's inquest, held in Bury, Dr Dean heard how the boy's father went to the wake the pair at around 10.45am. After getting no reply he broke down the door and found Kelvin lying across a sofa and Kevin slumped on the floor.

Emergency services were then called to the scene and paramedics and a doctor battled in vain to save Kelvin's life.

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Dr Dan Sharpstone told the coroner that he attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage on Kelvin, but he showed no signs of life. He was later pronounced dead at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury.

A post mortem revealed he had died due to the high level of carbon monoxide that had got into his body.

Following the tragedy, expert Dr Tom Neale carried out tests on the heater on behalf of Calor Gas, and found it had an insufficient air supply and was omitting dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in a short period of time.

He also described how the heater was dirty and had probably not been serviced for several years. Parts were missing, and its base was in a rusty condition.

"These heaters are perfectly safe if used properly and in accordance to the manufacturers instructions. It is essential they are regularly maintained by a competent person," said Dr Neale.

After recording a verdict of accidental death, Dr Dean underlined the need to adhere to all safety procedures surrounding gas fires. He said: "People need to make sure these otherwise safe appliances are maintained and serviced on a regular basis."

Kelvin's brother Kevin, who also suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, spent several days fighting for his life in intensive care at the James Paget Hospital, Gorleston, following the incident.

He is now being cared for at his home by his parents, and is expected to make a full recovery.

Family friend and Baptist minister, David Steere, who recently conducted Kelvin's funeral, described the boys as "inseparable and like peas in a pod."

He also said Kelvin, who was a labourer at the time of his death, was known for his gentle nature.

"Kelvin was against all forms of aggression," said Mr Steere. "He was never known to show anger and never lost his temper. He was a mild-mannered lad, though physically very strong. His family are devastated by his death."

Mr Steere added that Kelvin's parents are still too devastated to talk about their loss.

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