Ben Jubbs and his partner Karen Green were found dead after celebrating the New Year at home
A coroner has issued a sprinkler system plea after a couple tragically died in a house fire sparked by a fallen cigarette.
Ben Jubbs, 37, and Karen Green, 39, were found inside their second-floor flat in Blackley, north Manchester, after celebrating the New Year.
A coroner ruled that a cigarette dropped ‘inadvertently’ in a bedroom set fire to bedding near a bedside table. It sparked a blaze and produced deadly carbon monoxide gases, but eventually burnt out and smouldered.
An inquest in Manchester heard it’s likely that they woke to smell and see smoke, but were quickly overcome and rendered unconscious by the fumes as they tried to react.
Both Ben, a bus driver, and Bolton-born Karen, a former school secretary, had been drinking vodka on New Year’s Eve and trace elements of drugs were found in toxicology tests. The inquest heard the combination could have ‘rendered them less able to respond’.
Their causes of death were found to be carbon monoxide poisoning.
Ruling that the couple died from the effects of the fumes, assistant coroner Jean Harkin promised to write urging council officials and housing associations in Manchester to highlight a need for life-saving sprinkler systems.
She said she would also write to the relevant government department to champion a push for sprinklers, where possible, in all residential buildings.
The Braemar Court flats off Deanswood Drive, Blackley, are run by Arcon Housing Association and Ms Harkin praised their response to the tragedy.
She acknowledged cost implications but said of sprinklers: “Whilst they might not prevent all deaths, they might prevent some.”
Mum-of-two Ms Green’s sister, Janet Fitton, supported the call. Paying tribute to Karen, she said: “She was fun and bubbly with a brilliant sense of humour. She loved to entertain and we will miss her terribly.”
She revealed that Karen, who had been diagnosed with epilepsy, was also a former carnival queen as a youngster growing up in Farnworth, Bolton.
The couple, who stayed at home to celebrate the New Year, were discovered at around 5.30pm on January 2 after Ben’s sister dialled 999 to report a smell of smoke. They were found dead in the lounge by fire fighters.
The inquest heard relatives had received text messages from them before midnight on New Year’s Eve and into the early hours of January 1.
Both smoked cigarettes.
Neighbours at the scene paid tribute to Ben at the time, describing him as a ‘lovely lad’ who would be sorely missed. One said: “He was a lovely everyday guy. Everybody’s in shock.”
Fire investigation officer Mark Blackman said tests on the flat’s smoke alarms found they were operational, but said they might not have been heard.