Veteran’s boat blaze death was ‘accidental’
AFORMER Royal Navy serviceman burnt to death on his boat in Sharpness Marina, Gloucestershire, when a blaze broke out in the new engine he had just fitted, an inquest heard.
Philip Brookes, 48, of Birmingham, was sleeping aboard the vessel after a heavy drinking session with a friend when the fire broke out, the Gloucester inquest was told.
He used the boat two or three days a week to cut down his commute to Bristol, the coroner heard.
On May 23, after fitting the new engine and ringing his wife Kelly so she could hear it running, he and a friend drank heavily on board.
When the fire was later spotted, the emergency services were called but the boat was destroyed and sank. By the time the fire crew arrived, Mr Brookes was already dead, the inquest heard.
A post-mortem examination revealed a very high level of carbon monoxide. Mr Brookes was also extremely intoxicated, with 301mg of alcohol in his blood – almost four times the drink-drive limit.
The pathologist concluded that he would have been alive at the time of the fire but most likely unconscious due to smoke inhalation and extreme drunkenness.
An investigation was launched into the cause of the fire, hindered by the fact the boat had sunk. But it appeared the fire started in the engine area following maintenance carried out the day before.
The investigation concluded that on the balance of probabilities and no evi- dence of suspicious circumstances, the fire was accidental.
Daniel Milburn, who had been drinking with Mr Brookes the evening before the fire, said in his statement that he left the vessel at around 9.30pm. They had both been drinking a lot of alcohol, he said.
“At 11.45pm, I woke up to go to the toilet and saw a bright glow coming from his boat. I then saw flames,” Mr Milburn said in his statement.
Two further witnesses, Paul Marsh and Richard Hughes, said there was a strong smell of petroleum coming from the boat when they passed it earlier that day. Mr Marsh also said he saw the two men, who appeared drunk but in good spirits.
Senior coroner Katie Skerrett said: “Some detail remains unclear, like what started the fire, but I am satisfied this was an accidental fire.”
She recorded a conclusion of accidental death.
Philip Brookes in his Navy days