El­derly man dies in fire started by cig­a­rette

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By ADEN MILES and MATT BOWEN

Staff at a Pu­taruru rest home are in shock af­ter an el­derly res­i­dent was burnt to death af­ter drop­ping a cig­a­rette on him­self.

Hamil­ton po­lice have launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in to the death, which oc­curred at the Cardrona Resthome and Hospi­tal about 3.30pm on Satur­day.

Ex­ec­u­tive nurse man­ager Katherine McLeod said she be­lieved the man – a 71-year-old res­i­dent – had fallen asleep while smok­ing, set­ting his cloth­ing alight in the process.

He had been a res­i­dent of Cardrona for a num­ber of years and was un­der­stood to be de­pend- ant on as­sis­tance from staff to get around.

He suf­fered ex­ten­sive burns to his head and torso and died later in Waikato Hospi­tal.

The man is be­lieved to have been smok­ing in a des­ig­nated area on the rest home grounds at the time of the ac­ci­dent.

He was wear­ing day clothes, not py­ja­mas at the time of the ac­ci­dent. ‘‘Staff were alerted by the smell (of the fire),’’ Ms McLeod said. ‘‘I was not here but I as­sume it was pretty hor­ri­ble.’’ She said staff put out the fire and im­me­di­ately ad­min­is­tered CPR and first aid.

‘‘We are all sad about what has hap­pened. We are very, very gut­ted, we all knew him very well and his fam­ily. She was not sure whether any res­i­dents had wit­nessed the ac­ci­dent.

‘‘I am just work­ing out who was there at the time, but I am un­sure. I don’t know if there are any smok­ers who were out there at the time.’’

De­brief­ings had been held yes­ter­day, ‘‘ al­low­ing res­i­dents to mourn, grieve the loss’’ Ms McLeod told South Waikato News.

‘‘We have al­lowed ev­ery­one to speak and there has been coun­selling.

‘‘I have been spo­ken to also. This is the first day of plan­ning, but we are go­ing to hold a ser­vice this week at the home.’’

She was sat­is­fied staff had re­acted ap­pro­pri­ately when the ac­ci­dent hap­pened.

‘‘Staff re­sponded at the time ac­cord­ing to our poli­cies and pro­ce­dures. The woman from St John

said that the staff acted ap­pro­pri­ately.’’

There was no dam­age to any of the build­ings and there were ‘‘staff around’’ at the time of the ac­ci­dent, Ms McLeod said.

De­tec­tive Sergeant Ricky Thomp­son of Hamil­ton CIB said while po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent, they were not look­ing for any­one else. The man’s name has not been re­leased.

Fire Ser­vice fire in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ar­son re­duc­tion man­ager Peter Wild­ing said such ac­ci­dents were rare, with sta­tis­tics show­ing cig­a­rettes re­spon­si­ble for one fire death a year in the past four years.

A glow­ing cig­a­rette on a woollen jumper would be un­likely to ig­nite, but a cot­ton shirt could have been a con­tribut­ing fac­tor in the Pu­taruru case, Mr Wild­ing said.

‘‘If [the burn­ing cig­a­rette] is up against some­thing eas­ily com­bustible and there’s some- thing blow­ing on it and the heat can’t get away eas­ily it can well lead to ig­ni­tion.’’

‘‘The risk here is you have an el­derly gen­tle­man who’s not par­tic­u­larly mo­bile and if some­thing hot has dropped down and he’s wear­ing some­thing read­ily com­bustible, like a cot­ton shirt, with those con­di­tions, then there’s the po­ten­tial. All these things have to come into align­ment but ev­ery now and then they do.’’

TWO IN A ROW: Ti­rau adap­tive rower Danny McBride has won the 2012 Sportsper­son of the year award, cap­ping off two years at the helm of South Waikato sports.

Photo: ADEN MILES/ FAIR­FAX NZ

THE SCENE: Cardrona rest home where a man caught fire while smok­ing a cig­a­rette on Satur­day. He later died in Waikato Hospi­tal.

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