plea after fatal fire

Arthur Newton, known to his friends as Rocket Ronnie.
Arthur Newton, known to his friends as Rocket Ronnie.
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A WORKING smoke alarm would have saved the life of a man who died in a Christmas Day blaze, an inquest heard.

Arthur Newton, known to friends as Rocket Ronnie, was overcome by smoke and fumes as he tried to escape the fire, which was caused by a faulty toaster.

TRAGEDY: The Chidswell Gardens home of Ronnie Newton who died on Christmas Day. (d29121061)

TRAGEDY: The Chidswell Gardens home of Ronnie Newton who died on Christmas Day. (d29121061)

A smoke detector in the flat had been taken down and covered up.

Prof Paul Marks said: “If the fire alarms in the premises were working and appropriately sited, this tragedy would have been avoided.”

Since the tragedy Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing, which owns the flat, has made safety checks at 2,000 of its properties.

Wednesday’s inquest, in Huddersfield, heard how a woman in the flat above raised the alarm at around 3.45am when she was woken by her children coughing. Smoke had seeped into her flat through a narrow pipe for wiring which ran up from Mr Newton’s home.

Within minutes firefighters broke into Mr Newton’s flat in Chidswell Gardens, Shaw Cross. He was found behind the door, but paramedics were unable to revive him. The two children in flat above were treated for smoke inhalation.

Mr Newton, 68, died from smoke inhalation contributed to by existing heart problems.

Fire investigation officer Paul Armitage said a fault with the toaster meant the bread did not pop up and it began to smoulder before the fire spread.

Mr Armitage said the fire had smouldered for up to two-and-a-half hours and added that the pipe between the flats met regulations but KNH had since checked 2,000 similar properties as a precaution and done repairs at 200.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Prof Marks urged people to check smoke detectors on a weekly basis.

“This may go some way to preventing similar tragedies,” he said.

Mr Newton’s brother, Raymond, added: “It’s just so tragic that if the alarm had been working, Ronnie would be here today.”