Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Couple killed in the blaze died at the result of an accident, after inhaling smoke from the fire which started in June last year.
A FATAL fire at a lodge in Castle Hill Estate last year was most likely caused by a dehumidifier, an inquest ruled today (Tues).
Bob and Joan Rines, aged 61 and 76, both died as a result of inhaling hot gases and smoke from the fire which started in their living room.
When the emergency services arrived at Meadow Park Lodge in Filleigh at around 2.30am on June 18, 2012, the roof and first floor had already collapsed.
Fire investigation officer Mike Burroughs said he estimated the fire had been burning for over an hour when a passing lorry driver spotted it and dialled 999.
Mr Rines’ body was not pulled from the rubble until 7.45am that morning once the fire was out, and Mrs Rines’ body was found just before 4pm.
Both had to be identified by dental records.
The couple were believed to have both been in the bedroom, located above the lounge, at the time of their death.
However, due to the first floor collapsing, both of the bodies were discovered in the lounge.
Fragments of the bed were found under Mrs Rines’ body suggesting she had been in it when she died.
The inquest heard from Kevin Dodge, the eldest of Joan’s five children, who said they had been lent the dehumidifier by the estate to combat a damp problem.
The original front door to the house, leading into the lounge, had been blocked on the inside so the only exit was through the kitchen.
An inspection of the property’s electrics in 2009 had found there was no battery in a smoke alarm. It is not known whether this was replaced.
The couple were known to have a nightly routine, where they would watch television, have a drink of Horlicks and then be in bed with the lights off by 11pm.
The last person to speak to them that evening was their granddaughter Charlotte, who had a brief telephone conversation with Mrs Rines at around 9.15pm.
Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland said it was impossible to give an exact time of death, but it would have been sometime before 2.37am when the fire service arrived.
Dr Earland also ruled it was impossible to know whether the dehumidifier was plugged in or switched on at the time the fire started.
She said: “I believe on the balance of probability the right verdict to return is one of accidental death.”
Speaking after the inquest, Alan Rines, Bob’s only brother, said: “We’re satisfied with the verdict which we think is appropriate, and are grateful to coroner’s officer for their help.”
Lady Arran, who owns Castle Hill Estate, also attended the inquest and paid tribute to the loving couple, who had 13 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
She said: “I can only say how dearly the whole community have missed them ever since they died.
“They will always be remembered in Filleigh and we will be planting a copse of trees by the lodge when it is rebuilt with a bench to remember them by.”