Coroner warns against barbecues in tents after carbon monoxide death

North Devon Magistrates Court, Barnstaple North Devon Magistrates Court, Barnstaple

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
1:57 PM

Young woman who died in Braunton campsite had fatal levels of carbon monoxide in her blood.

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A CORONER has warned of the dangers of using barbecues or camping stoves inside tents after a young woman was killed by carbon monoxide last year.

University student Bethan O’Brien, 20, from Andover was found dead in her tent at the Secret Spot Camping Site at Moor Lane Nursery, Braunton, on August 18 last year.

Her friends Jack Horsfield and Oliver Denton were also found to have high levels of carbon dioxide in their blood and had to be taken to North Devon District Hospital.

The trio arrived at the campsite in Saunton Road late on Friday, August 16, and after spending the night in their tent, went surfing the following day at Croyde.

They spent the evening eating fish and chips and having a few drinks in Croyde before returning to the campsite in Braunton at around 10.30pm.

Mr Horsfield told the inquest it was cold when they arrived back at the tent and they had lit a cobblestone camping oven which was placed inside the tent to keep it warm.

He said the door of the tent was left partially open and all of the vents were open too.

The three friends went to bed at around 11.30pm. Later that night Mr Horsfield woke up and vomited but thought it was due to the food he had eaten.

At around 6.30am, he woke to find Bethan was not breathing and dialled 999 while running to get help from the campsite owners.

Mr Horsfield and campsite owner Joanna Thomas attempted CPR, while Mr Denton was unable to stand due to the effects of the carbon monoxide poisoning.

Paramedics confirmed Bethan’s death at 6.59am and took Mr Denton and Mr Horsfield to hospital.

A post mortem proved Bethan had a carbon monoxide level of 53 per cent in her blood which would have proved fatal.

Campsite owner Joanna Thomas told the inquest there were many warning signs around the campsite stating the dangers of placing barbecues in tents.

She also said that upon booking, guests were emailed a list of rules and regulations which also highlighted these dangers.

Coroner Elizabeth Earland recorded a conclusion of accidental death contributed to by neglect, offering her sympathy to Bethan’s family.

She said: “I want to make it plain to the public the dangers of bringing barbecues or any kind of firing material in or near tents where there is a closed atmosphere.

“Once the occupants succumb to carbon monoxide it can be fatal.”

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