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Failure to maintain boiler contributed to Derbyshireman’s death

By Katie Anderson on November 12, 2012

An inquest into the death of a man in Ilkeston three years ago has cited the failure to maintain regular gas safety inspections as a “contributing factor” to his death.

On the 29th December 2009, the body of 51-year-old Stephen Newton was discovered by friends visiting his home in Stanley Common. Paramedics attended the scene and were able to save the life of Mr Newton’s partner, Susan Davies. Sadly, Mr Newton was pronounced dead at the scene. A coroner later revealed that Mr Newton had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Recording a narrative verdict, the inquest jury noted: “We have found that on the balance of probability that failure to maintain the boiler was a contributing factor to Mr Newton’s death”.

An autopsy revealed that Mr Newton died from excessive exposure to carbon monoxide; in fact, toxicity levels in his body were 11 per cent higher than what would be considered fatal.

In May 2008, engineers working for National Grid visited the property in which Mr Newton was a tenant. The engineers declared the central heating boiler faulty and disconnected it from the mains. In October 2009, Mr Newton reconnected the boiler.

The jury at Derby and South Derbyshire Coroners’ Court stated: “Lethal levels of carbon monoxide would not have been present in the property if the boiler had not be reconnected by Mr Newton. We can find no supporting evidence to demonstrate that any gas safety checks were undertaken on the boiler [between 2006 and 2009]”.

Annual gas safety checks on all domestic boilers are required by law. The landlord of the property in which Mr Newton died, however, claims to have been unaware of the engineers’ report on the boiler. She further claims that Mr Newton and his partner denied her entry to the property, leaving her unable to arrange an inspection.

All gas boilers must be inspected every year by a Gas Safe engineer. As demonstrated in the present case, failure to do this can prove fatal. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include lethargy, dizziness, headaches, nausea and shortness of breath. Prolonged exposure causes unconsciousness and eventually death. Carbon monoxide detectors should be fitted in all homes to warn occupants of gas leaks.