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4th Jul, 2022

Family together for the first time in years, hours before fire tragedy struck

Malvern Editorial 17th Jul, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

A WOMAN who died when fire broke out at her home, was with her three sons together for the first time in 22 years the day before it happened.

An inquest ruled that Valerie Ashcroft, 74, died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning when fire devastated her park home at Three Counties Park, Upper Pendock, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, March 25.

Speaking after the hearing on Wednesday (July 16) her son David Bird said it was ‘ironic’ he and his two brothers Kevin and Steve, were together with their mum for the first time in more than two decades hours before tragedy struck.

“We all met a mum’s with the Dementia nurse, mum knew things were not going well, she was aware about it,” said Mr Bird who added: “I used to stay here with mum and I will miss that and our chats.

“She was a very loving person. She loved her family and loved animals. She was very, very caring. She will be very sadly missed this has left a big hole for us. She loved life.”

Geraint Williams, senior coroner for Worcestershire, concluded Ms Ashcroft died as a result of an accident and that the fire was likely caused by a halogen heater.

Jonathan Butlin, station commander from Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS), said four fire engines attended the scene after fire control received a call at 4.42am on the fateful morning. He added firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour before it was eventually extinguished at 6.26am.

Mr Butlin confirmed Ms Aschroft was found dead shortly after in the lounge area. He said it had been ‘fairly straight forward’ to determine the origin of the fire from burn marks on the metal chassis of the park home which had been ’95 per cent’ destroyed.

He added the property had no working smoke alarms and the fire would have been allowed to burn for a long time before neighbours noticed.

The HWFRS officer concluded the flames would have spread quickly because of the ‘enclosed’ nature of the park home.

A toxicology report stated Ms Ashcroft had inhaled a high level of ‘products of combustion’ consistent with people who succumb to Carbon Monoxide.

The inquest also heard evidence from neighbour Ian Roberts who said he awoke to the sight of eight foot high flames and roused other residents before banging on Ms Ashcroft’s van to alert her before the heat became too intense. He said residents used hose pipes to keep water on gas tanks outside of the home.

Coroner Williams added: “Ian Roberts should be commended for his actions, he was clearly aware of the risk of the gas tanks but nevertheless acted without hesitation or thought of his own safety to save his neighbours and although he was unsuccessful, Ms Ashcroft.”

Mr Bird also expressed the family’s gratitude to Mr Roberts, fellow neighbours and emergency services for their efforts.

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