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Former Falmouth taxi driver had heart attack in house fire
7:00am Saturday 12th July 2014 in Cornwall
A former Falmouth taxi driver who died of a heart attack after his house caught fire may have survived if it wasn’t for the effects of carbon monoxide and alcohol.
An inquest into the death of Charles Arnold Dobson, 63, known as Charlie, who lived at Retanna Country Park between Helston and Falmouth, heard that the effects of inhaling the gas caused by the |fire, and of wine he had been drinking, may have limited his ability to help himself or to get assistance from others.
Fire investigator Justin Sharp told coroner Barrie van den Berg that crews were called to a fire at Mr Dobson’s home at around 3pm on January 2, 2014, which had been started by an overheating chip pan.
Upon entering Mr Dobson’s living room, they found him lying on the floor in front of his sofa, before taking him outside and attempting “everything they could” to resuscitate him.
DC Damien Haydney, from Camborne police, said Mr Dobson had arrived home at 12.30pm that afternoon, having been driven home by his brother Jeremy, picking up a bottle of wine on |the way, and his brother confirmed that the day before they had been celebrating the New Year as a family.
His neighbour, Trevor Roberts, arrived home at about 2.30pm |with his wife Fiona to find black smoke coming from the window of the property, and checking |the kitchen window he saw flames coming from the cooker.
Pathologist Dr Juliane Stolte said Mr Dobson had a history of high blood pressure, and the three main arteries in his heart were “nearly closed”. Blood tests showed 240 milligrams of ethanol per 100 millilitres, as well as 1-2 micrograms of cannabis which Dr Stolte said “didn’t affect him very much”, and a carbon monoxide reading of 23 per cent, which is “not enough to be fatal on its own.”
However she said it could have had “a detrimental effect on motor and cognitive functions” or he may have been falling asleep “and didn’t hear anything.”
She said: “Without the toxicology report I would have given the cause of death as ischaemic heart disease.
“But from the toxicology results I would say alcohol, cannabis and carbon monoxide might have contributed.
“Without those three he might have had an ischaemic attack in his heart but maybe could have survived it, but because of the circumstances he wasn’t able to get help from other people, to ring the ambulance or to realise he had chest pain.”
Mr Dobson's brother Jeremy said the cannabis would have been in his system from the night before, when the family had been celebrating the new year.
Speaking after the inquest he said he was confident the cannabis didn't have any effect on his brother's death "in any way".
The coroner said in summary that Mr Dobson could have died anyway but the circumstances of the fire, of the carbon monoxide and the fact that he’d been drinking prevented him from being able to do anything about it.
“He was a very ill man and the effects of alcohol and of carbon monoxide poisoning prevented him from being able to get help or hear the alarms.”
Mr Dobson was a merchant seaman, travelling the world as a chief engineer, before returning to his hometown of Falmouth, where he drove a taxi for Abacus Cars until his retirement.
The inquest was attended by Mr Dobson’s two brothers, Jeremy and Bill, Jeremy’s wife Lynne and close friend Joan Eastgate. His sister Alicia Hodges lives in America and was unable to attend. Jeremy said: “He lived life to the full. He was a family man, father of two sons, and will be sadly missed.”