Pensioner’s death sparked huge fire

Roy Nelson
Roy Nelson
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A ferocious house blaze was caused when a retired headteacher suddenly collapsed and died, knocking flammable materials onto a gas fire.

Firefighters discovered the body of pensioner Roy Nelson after they were called to a blaze at his home on Holford Way, Newton-le-Willows, before Christmas.

Senior fire investigator Anthony Harland told an inquest at St Helens Town Hall that it was “highly likely” the 75-year-old had inadvertently sparked the fire after collapsing in the living room.

He told how three fire engines - from Newton-le-Willows, St Helens and Eccleston - were all called to the scene after neighbours dialled 999 shortly after 8.40pm on December 14.

One neighbour attempted to enter the property in a bid to rescue Mr Nelson, but was hampered by the thick black smoke.

On arrival at the scene, firefighters donned breathing apparatus to search the ground floor of the property and tackle the flames. They described the visibility as “poor” and the heat levels as “extremely high”.

Such was the ferocity of the fire, they initially struggled to open the door to the lounge, before finding Mr Nelson’s body inside.

Two smoke alarms had fallen from the ceiling due to the intense heat and several clocks dotted around the property had stopped.

After firefighters put the fire out and ventilated the property a joint investigation into the cause of the blaze was launched by the fire service and the police.

They concluded that the most likely cause was that Mr Nelson inadvertently knocked combustible materials onto a gas fire when he collapsed.

A pathologist gave the medical cause of death as “acute myocardial insufficiency, left ventricular hypertrophy and fatty liver”.

Coroner Christopher Sumner ruled that Mr Nelson died of natural causes.

Former colleagues previously paid tribute to the widely respected former headteacher, who, for years worked at Brookfield High in Kirkby, describing him as a man who “commanded respect”.