Inquest hears how MS sufferer dropped match or cigarette onto her bed that engulfed her in flames and burnt down her home

The scene of the fire in Burwell The scene of the fire in Burwell

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
2:06 PM

A 35 year old severely physically disabled woman died of suffocation and burns when a cigarette she was smoking in bed caused a fire that ripped through her bungalow blowing out one of the windows.

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Multiple sclerosis sufferer and heavy smoker, Miranda Drew, could not walk and no longer had the strength in her hands to flick a lighter so used matches to light her cigarettes, an inquest heard.

Her habit was to cost her life when she dropped either the match or her cigarette onto her hospital bed mattress which engulfed her in flames and burnt down her home in Hawthorn Way, Burwell.

Recording a verdict of accidental death Coroner William Morris said: “With hindsight it would have been appropriate for Miranda not to be ever left with smoking materials - but one has to strike some sort of balance in life - clearly it was on of her only few pleasures in life.”

An inquest heard that mother of one Miranda, who was diagnosed seven years earlier with multiple sclerosis, had reached a stage where she could not walk and needed four carers coming to her home daily to help look after her along with her partner and full time carer Graham Challis.

On the day she died Mr Challis had got up early to take their daughter to Cambridge for a family birthday party leaving Ms Drew home alone in preparation for the first morning visit by her care team.

Mr Challis said: “She was finishing off a cigarette and I said to her do you want me to stay and she said no I will be OK. I told her to be careful and we left,” he said.

He said that Ms Drew would have a heavy glass ashtray between her legs which she used while smoking which would be slid off her legs once she had finished the cigarette.

On Saturday August 31 the inquest heard that neighbour Peter Wakely was outside waiting for a lorry delivery from Ridgeons at about 9.20am when he saw heavy smoke pouring from the side of her bungalow.

He and the driver ran to the side and shouted to see if anyone was inside - they tried to get into the bungalow at the front but opening the door they were met by thick black smoke and acrid fumes.

They ran to the back door but gave up when they realised it was too dangerous.

Two neighbours tried to fight the flames with a garden hose but it took firemen in three fire appliances to bring the blaze under control as they battled with a full flashover of fire and the ceiling to the bungalow collapsed.

Neighbours at the time spoke of a woman who would be sadly missed by all of her friends.

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