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Jeremy Clarkson’s former Top Gear driver, 81, dies in fire

Both Mrs Hazell and her husband Brian (pictured together on their wedding day) died from smoke inhalation caused by the smouldering cigarette which set their home on fire as they slept

A man who once drove for Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear was killed when his Alzheimer’s-suffering wife forgot to properly stub out a cigarette and caused a tragic house fire, an inquest as heard.

A coroner said it was possible 72-year-old Eileen Hazell, who suffered from the memory-sapping disease, may not have fully extinguished her cigarette before putting it in a wastepaper bin.

Both Mrs Hazell and her husband Brian, 81, died from smoke inhalation caused by the smouldering cigarette which set their home on fire as they slept.

The elderly couple was pronounced dead at the scene.

Assistant coroner Alison McCormick suggested that Eileen’s Alzheimer’s may have had something to do with the cigarette not being stubbed out properly.

A fire investigation report from Steven Cook, which was read out at the hearing, confirmed the way Eileen disposed of her cigarettes.

Mr Cook said: ‘In the kitchen bin I found quite a number of cigarette butts.. There were 47 cigarette butts in total, smoked to the end, not stubbed out.

‘From information we have received we know that the brand was JP Windsor Blue. I did find a used cigarette packet in the bin too.’

A neighbour, Luke Webb, had called the fire brigade to the end-of-terrace house in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, just after four in the morning on April 24.

He said in a statement to the coroner: ‘I was asleep when my girlfriend told me that Brian and Eileen’s house was on fire.

‘I ran outside and could see fire coming out of the back bedroom window. I smashed the front door on the glass panel. I reached inside to open the door but I couldn’t open it. I was calling out to Brian and Eileen.’

Coroner Ms McCormick said: 'I am satisfied that on the balance of probabilities, the fire was caused by an incompletely extinguished cigarette dropped by Mrs Hazell into a waste paper basket'. Pictured: The home in Buckinghamshire 

Coroner Ms McCormick said: ‘I am satisfied that on the balance of probabilities, the fire was caused by an incompletely extinguished cigarette dropped by Mrs Hazell into a waste paper basket’. Pictured: The home in Buckinghamshire 

Statements from the firefighters describing the dramatic scene were read out before the coroner.

Dave Heron said: ‘The were flames burning from the top bedroom window located at the front of the house. My foot went through the ceiling. I heard Trevor say, “I have found a casualty” from the bedroom next to me.

Brian had been a driver for Jeremy Clarkson (pictured) on BBC’s Top Gear

‘I picked her up and carried her down the stairs, out of the house.’

Trevor Williamson, a second firefighter, dragged Mr Hazell from the house. The couple were laid out on the lawn at the front of the house, but despite frantic attempts at CPR, Brian Hazell and his wife died.

Speaking at the time of the blaze, neighbour Josh Brooks confirmed that Mr Hazell used to deliver cars for Jeremy Clarkson.

The 20-year-old said: ‘I’ve lived here for eight years and they were both just such nice people. They were both a bit old school. Brian used to deliver people’s cars to them. He used to take cars to the former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.’

Coroner Ms McCormick clarified the couple were discovered in a bedroom that neither of them usually slept in, and that the fire had started in a separate room – Eileen’s usual bedroom.

Summing up, she said: ‘Brian Hazell and his wife Eileen died on April 24. They both died from smoke inhalation in a house fire at their home address.

Firefighter Dave Heron said: 'The were flames burning from the top bedroom window located at the front of the house. My foot went through the ceiling' 

Firefighter Dave Heron said: ‘The were flames burning from the top bedroom window located at the front of the house. My foot went through the ceiling’ 

The elderly couple were pronounced dead at the scene after the tragic fire. Pictured: The still-damaged house after the fire

The elderly couple were pronounced dead at the scene after the tragic fire. Pictured: The still-damaged house after the fire

‘Two firefighters entered the house and found Mr and Mrs Hazel unconscious. Sadly both were declared to have died at the scene.

‘I am very grateful for the expert evidence from Mr Cook. I am satisfied that on the balance of probabilities, the fire was caused by an incompletely extinguished cigarette dropped by Mrs Hazell into a waste paper basket.

‘I think that in this case the inevitable conclusion is one of accident.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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