Elsenham house fire death was accidental, inquest told

A VERDICT of accidental death has been recorded by a coroner at the inquest of an Elsenham man who died when a fire broke out in his home.

Darren Hockley, 36, who lived with his father Gerald, 71, in Gilbey Cottages, Stansted Road, was overcome by fumes when the fire in the hearth at his home spread to a nearby woodpile.

Chelmsford Coroners Court was told he had 430mg of alcohol in his blood – over five times the drink drive limit – and that this would have affected his awareness.

Mr Hockley, described as an alcoholic, was found by firefighters in his bedroom when they were called to the fire at about 10pm on January 28.

His death was confirmed on arrival at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.

He died from inhalation of combustible fumes and acute alcohol toxicity.

The coroner was told his blood was 75 per cent saturated with carbon monoxide, which was a fatal level.

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Coroner’s officer Paul Gamman said the forensic pathologist Dr Ben Swift had indicated that alcohol toxicity had contributed to his death.

Although the extremely high level was not potentially fatal to Mr Hockley because he was a heavy drinker, it would have affected his awareness and consciousness.

The inquest heard that Mr Hockley and his father lived independently in the same house and that both were shift workers. Darren Hockley was off work on January 28.

A report by Essex Fire and Rescue Service said that the fire probably began by a stick from the open fire falling into the hearth and flames “tracking back” up the stick to a nearby woodpile. It was accidental.

Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded a verdict that Mr Hockley, who was born in Bishop’s Stortford, died as a result of an accident.

She said: “He must have been very much the worse for wear, under the influence of alcohol, even though it was not the main cause of death. He had a very high level of alcohol in his system.”

No family members were present at the inquest.