Mum tells of last phone call to son trapped in blaze

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A TRAPPED man died after a fire accidentally started in his flat, a coroner heard.

Neighbours of Desmond Harding, of Stratfield Gardens, Warren Park, Havant, called emergency services when smoke started billowing out of the 47-year-old’s flat.

An inquest heard how attempts had been made to try to rescue Mr Harding, who was found by firefighters in his kitchen at around 10pm on October 10 last year.

Mr Harding’s mother June had been on the phone to her son moments before the fire started.

She said: ‘I called him and had said “Hello Desmond”. And he said, “Mum, I haven’t got any telly”.

‘So I asked if he had radio and he didn’t have that either.

‘He told me he had gone to Park Parade and to a pie shop, but it was closed.

‘He had been over the moon that day because he had received his bus pass.

‘While he was talking I could hear the bells ringing.

‘I wasn’t sure what it was.

‘He then said, “Hang on, Mum,” and he didn’t sound panicky.

‘I heard a rustle, which sounded like a newspaper, then water being thrown on something and then something exploded.

‘There was a bang and then there was silence.’

The bang was a television exploding in the living room due to heat.

Steve Trevethick, fire investigation officer for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘Mr Harding was found on the floor in the kitchen.

‘The fire had started in the living room.’

Mr Harding slept on a sofabed in his living room and was known to be a heavy drinker and smoker.

‘Although there was an ashtray, empty bottles of vodka and cigarettes near the sofabed, the fire service were satisfied the fire had not been started deliberately,’ added Mr Trevethick.

‘It is likely that a fire started from a smoulder due to smoking materials.

‘Mr Harding had been awake for some of the fire as there was evidence he had tried to put it out.

‘But he became trapped in the kitchen – there had been an awful lot of smoke in the flat.’

A report by pathologist Barbara Borek found Mr Harding had heart and lung problems, and high alcohol levels in his blood – which could have impaired his ability to understand what was happening.

Karen Harrold, assistant deputy coroner, said: ‘It seems Desmond was aware there was a problem and made attempts to find water to put out the fire.

‘There is nothing I have heard that suggests the fire was started deliberately, his death was due to an accident.’

Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Harding said: ‘Desmond was a lovely person.

‘He was kind, funny and generous.’