A LEADING fire officer has issued a life-and-death warning after a pensioner died of carbon monoxide poisoning when mince pies in his microwave oven are believed to have burst into flames.
Chesterfield coroner’s court heard during an inquest on Thursday, March 7, how dementia sufferer James Broadhead, 79, of Castle Hill, Eckington, had been warming the pies up before they are thought to have burst into flames within six minutes and the pensioner’s home became engulfed in harmful smoke from the microwave.
Neighbour Hugh Marshall and Mr Broadhead’s son-in-law Nicholas Lee got into the property through the back door after spotting smoke, according to the inquest, and found Mr Broadhead lying in the living room and despite carrying him out and giving him CPR he was later pronounced dead.
Station manager and fire investigator Alan Richmond, of Derbyshire fire service, said: “The fire was most likely caused by Mr Broadhead placing mince pies in the microwave on a timer and causing the pies to ignite and causing the microwave to set fire to the cupboard above.”
Derbyshire fire service re-created the incident in a freight container by cooking pies in the same model of microwave for over six minutes and the horror video was played at the inquest.
The video showed a microwave become filled with smoke in just over a minute, with smoke seeping from the microwave after two-and-a-half minutes before it became shrouded in smoke within three-and-a-half minutes as the flaming pies erupted. Temperatures around the outside of the oven reached a terrifying 130 degrees, according to the fire service.
Mr Richmond added the timer was set too high for any food to be cooked in a microwave and vital ventilation space above and behind the oven was restricted.
A post mortem report revealed how widower and former dumper-driver Mr Broadhead died on Christmas Day evening, 2011, from carbon monoxide toxicity with contributory factors including a heart condition and Alzheimer’s disease.
Mr Lee explained Mr Broadhead’s family visited him every day. He told the hearing: “As soon as I got through the door it was pitch black with smoke. When I went in I shouted and he was lying on the floor so I called 999. I couldn’t breath and had to get him out.”
North Derbyshire Deputy Coroner Nigel Anderson recorded a verdict of accidental death. He said: “This incident went from warm mince pies to a disaster in little over six minutes.”
The hearing learned how two smoke alarms in the property failed to operate because one had faulty batteries and the other was incorrectly fitted. A Derbyshire fire service and nationwide campaign is soon to be launched urging people to have smoke alarms fitted and checked regularly.
Fire officer Richmond explained the fire service is considering asking microwave manufacturers to introduce a smoke detection system and warned all homes should be fitted with fully functioning and tested life-saving smoke alarms.
He warned after the hearing how over cooking sugars and fats can cause fires in microwaves, people should not put things on top of microwaves, and cooking times should be checked because if similar fires erupt it only takes two or three breaths of toxic smoke to make anyone unconscious.
Mr Broadhead’s family agreed to allow Mr Anderson to put together a report to be submitted to the relavent authorities to consider what could be done to prevent any repeat incidents.