Praise for helpers after pensioner died in huge fire

The scene of the fatal fire in Waterlooville
The scene of the fatal fire in Waterlooville
The fire near Kentidge Way, Waterlooville, yesterday. Picture: Craig Handy

Suspected arson incident in Waterlooville causes £50,000 of damage

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A MILKMAN and a neighbour were praised for their ‘public-spirited’ efforts for trying to help a pensioner who was caught in a house fire.

Anthony Day and Matthew Tyrrell were commended by the coroner and the family of 82-year-old Dennis Elliott, a retired carpenter who died when his bungalow was destroyed by fire.

An inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall was told Mr Day was doing his milk round at 3am on August 14 last year when he spotted smoke coming from the back of a property in Haslar Crescent, Waterlooville.

He banged on the windows and tried to rattle the letterbox, which was too hot to touch as a fierce blaze developed inside.

He sounded the horn on his milk van to alert neighbours as the fire began to spread next door.

Mr Day, 53, from Baffins, said: ‘I just kept banging on the window.

‘I tried to go and get the dog but it was hot.

‘I just hoped there was no-one in there.’

Mr Tyrrell, 39, a fishmonger who lives two doors away, heard the commotion and grabbed a hose.

He then removed a fence panel and aimed the hose at the back of Mr Elliott’s bungalow and also at the beighbours’ home to stop that ctaching light.

‘The windows just exploded,’ he said. ‘The noise was horrendous. I knew there was nothing I would be able to do.

‘I just concentrated on the neighbours’ property to try and stem the flow.’

He added: ‘It was instinct. I was not trying to be a hero.’

Mr Elliott, a grandad-of-seven, was found inside and had 
died from inhaling carbon monoxide.

The inquest heard his health was deteriorating and he had started smoking again after quitting the habit.

He lived with his son Richard Elliott, 52, who was working away at the time.

Sylvia Howard, a care attendant for Radian, had visited Mr Elliott for half an hour the evening beforehand to help get his dinner ready.

She said: ‘He was so easy to get on with. He was lovely. We just had chats.’

Fire investigator Robin Furniss said the blaze had started in the lounge and the cause was a smouldering cigarette.

An ashtray was found near an electrical reclining chair; the chair was found to have no defects.

The patio door in the lounge was open and any draught would have fuelled the fire, he said.

Commending the efforts of Mr Day, Coroner David Horsley said: ‘It was very public spirited of you and I commend you for that.

‘It was a good job you were there at that time in the morning otherwise this could have been a far bigger tragedy than it was.’

About Mr Tyrrell he added: ‘It’s the mark of a good neighbour.

‘You went in with a hose and did your best in a very difficult situation.

‘It’s the sort of thing you want to encourage in the community.’

Mr Horsley said Mr Elliott would have passed out from the fumes and not been aware of the massive fire.

He believed Mr Elliott may have discarded a cigarette and nodded off in his reclining chair.

‘I have to conclude what has happened has been accidental,’ he said.

Mr Elliott’s daughter Wendy Davis, 54, from Portsmouth, said: ‘We just want to thank all the neighbours, the fire service and everyone that’s been involved.’