Vet­eran’s boat blaze death was ‘ac­ci­den­tal’

Western Daily Press - - News - JOHN HAWKINS [email protected]­erndai­ly­

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.

HMS For­ward – Royal Navy Re­serves Train­ing Cen­tre/Face­book

Philip Brookes in his Navy days

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