Inquest following fatal fire in Roxton prompts warning over smoking while intoxicated

Hearing told victim had been drinking and may have fallen asleep holding a lighter
File image of a Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue applianceFile image of a Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue appliance
File image of a Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue appliance

Smokers are being warned of the dangers of smoking while intoxicated following an inquest into the death of Sam Smith following a fire in his caravan.

The hearing at Ampthill Coroner’s Court on Tuesday with Aliya Rashid, Assistant Coroner of Bedford and Luton, concluded Mr Smith died due to the effects of fire, namely inhalation of fire fumes, and that the death was accidental. The court heard that he may have fallen asleep with a lighter in his hand.

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The fire broke out in Mr Smith’s caravan in Kelpie Marine, Great North Road, Roxton, on October 28, 2023. A neighbour called 999 at about 10pm after they saw “an orange glow” coming from Mr Smith’s caravan along with thick, heavy smoke.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene and on arrival, crews were met with a significant fire in a tow-hitched caravan. Firefighters extinguished the fire, but the caravan was completely destroyed. The firefighters discovered Mr Smith had been inside the caravan.

The fire service explained how the court heard Mr Smith was intoxicated, having been to the pub after work and bought further alcohol from an off-licence on his way home, that he was tired and was likely to have fallen asleep. A large number of cigarette ends were found at the scene, and there was evidence that suggested he may have fallen asleep with a lighter in his hand.

Group Commander Steve Sugars, fire investigator, explained his investigation concluded the most likely cause of the fire was carelessly discarded smoking materials, or a naked flame.

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He said: “Our condolences go to the family, friends and neighbours of Mr Smith, who sadly died in these circumstances.

“This is a timely reminder that smoking whilst being intoxicated can carry significant risks. All it takes is for you to drift off to sleep with an alight cigarette in your hand, which can fall and cause whatever it is around you to smoulder, for example a sofa or a bed, which will then turn into what could become a devastating fire.

“If you are a smoker, make sure you extinguish cigarettes properly and dispose of the remnants effectively. Most importantly, wherever you live, whether it is a house or a caravan, make sure you have a smoke alarm.”

Mr Smith’s caravan did not have a smoke alarm, and whilst there is no legal requirement for caravans to have smoke alarms, the fire service said it would always recommend fitting one.

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