Checks would have found boiler defect

MDL091230A2 - Stanley common the Brick Yard
MDL091230A2 - Stanley common the Brick Yard

An inquest has found that the death of a Stanley Common man could have been prevented if the boiler in his rented house had been serviced.

Stephen Newton, 51, died from carbon monoxide poisoning on December 29, 2009, in the house he shared with partner Susan Davies at The Brickyard.

A Derby inquest into his death was told that the property’s gas boiler had a serious defect that had led to a National Grid engineer disconnecting it in 2008 when he attended the house to change the gas meter.

But in October 2009, Mr Newton re-connected the boiler himself as the weather turned colder despite the fact no repairs had been carried out.

Several weeks later, he was found dead in the house by two friends and Mrs Davies was hospitalised with the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Delivering a narrative verdict, the inquest’s jury found that: “Lethal levels of carbon monoxide would not have been present in the property if the boiler had not been re-connected by Mr Newton.”

Evidence given during the inquest showed that the boiler was emitting ‘extremely high levels of carbon monoxide’.

Firefighter Damien West, who tested the boiler as part of investigations into the incident, told the inquest that he had never seen such high levels of the gas build-up so quickly in all his career.

Mr Newton and Mrs Davies moved into the property in 2005 but no annual gas safety checks were carried out on its gas appliances after they moved in.

Landlady Dr Victoria Martindale had told the inquest that she had ‘an awareness’ that it was her statutory obligation to arrange for annual checks to be carried out.

However she said that she had never arranged for a qualified gas engineer to attend the property and did not know that the boiler had been condemned and disconnected.

She claimed a letter sent informing her of this was never received.

The jury said that they could find ‘no supporting evidence’ to demonstrate that any annual gas safety checks which would have identified the defect were undertaken on the boiler between 2006 and 2009.

“If the annual gas inspection had been carried out, in all probability Mr Newton’s death would have been prevented,” they concluded.

“We have found that on the balance of probability, that failure to maintain or repair the boiler was a contributing factor to Mr Newton’s death.”