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Man died in house fire, overcome by toxic fumes

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 14, 2012

The family of a man who died in a house fire have paid tribute to a "lovely man who was larger than life".

Peter Ward, 46, was pulled unconscious from the smoke-filled property where he lived alone in New Quay Road, Teignmouth, in the incident, on November 3 last year.

A nearby restaurant owner, a chef and others raised the alarm and tried to tackle the fire when they saw the sky filled with smoke.

An inquest heard Mr Ward died of carbon monoxide poisoning when he was overcome by the toxic smoke. His dog also died.

Ian Arrow, Torbay and South Devon coroner, recorded an open verdict. He said on the "balance of probability" the fire was caused by a naked flame of some kind on a single chair in the living room.

After the inquest, Jo Browning, Mr Ward's cousin, thanked all those who came to his aid.

She said: "We want to say a huge thank you to all those people who tried to help Peter. I don't think there are many people out there who would attempt to fight back the fire."

She added: "Peter was a very larger than life character and a lovely man."

The inquest heard how Fresco restaurateur Marco Tavoso rushed to help when he saw flames coming from the cottage. He could see smoke through the open bottom-part of a stable door at the entrance of the cottage.

Mr Tavoso used his own fire extinguisher on the flames and was handed another, but each "had no effect on the flames at all".

He explained how the fire quickly escalated and he could hear objects falling and exploding inside.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Tavoso said: "At this point I felt if someone was in there they would not survive." Josh Martin, chef at the Crab Shack, was having a drink in the New Quay Inn when a man burst in to say there was a fire.

Mr Martin tried to enter the burning building but was pushed back by the heat and smoke. He said in a statement: "There was burning debris falling from the ceiling and there was no way of getting into the building.

"I felt really helpless. I could hear people shouting and they were saying children were not in there."

The inquest was told Mr Ward had spilt from his partner who had also lived at the cottage with her two children.

Neighbour Sandra Roberts said the couple had a volatile relationship and Mr Ward had drunk to excess.

He was known to drink in the day and his appearance had become dishevelled.

Ms Roberts had seen Mr Ward in the street outside of Teignmouth Electrical Supplies at 9.42pm on the night he died. By 9.55pm the fire service were called to the address. Mr Ward was found on the bed in an upstairs bedroom with his dog nearby.

Toxicology reports showed alcohol levels in his body of around three-times the legal drive limit.

George Setter, fire investigator, told the inquest if a cigarette had been dropped in the chair, it would take at least 22 minutes for fire to take hold.

But the time between Mr Ward being seen in the street and the fire brigade being called was 13 minutes.