A grandmother died in a ‘one-in-ten-million’ freak accident when an oxygen tank being used to treat her for suspected coronavirus exploded ‘like a Roman Candle firework’, an inquest has heard.
Paramedics were administering oxygen treatment to Lynn Hadley at her home in Walsall, West Midlands, when sparks – described as like being from a ‘humongous sparkler’ – flew from the device and ignited the armchair in which she was sitting.
The 67-year-old’s husband Dave, daughter Kelly, granddaughter Mackenzie and the two paramedics were forced to flee from the burning house.
Mrs Hadley, a former Tesco’s worker, could not be rescued despite the efforts of her husband.
She died in the chair as a result of fatal burn injuries, an inquest at Black Country Coroner’s Court heard today.
Paramedics were administering Lynn Hadley with oxygen treatment at her home in Walsall, West Midlands, when sparks flew from the device and ignited the armchair in which she was sitting
Mrs Hadley, a former Tesco’s worker, could not be rescued from the fire at her property in Walsall (pictured) despite the efforts of her husband
The inquest heard how ambulance crews had been called to the property after Mrs Hadley had started to show symptoms of Covid-19.
But as crews began oxygen treatment, sparks flew from the device – in a way which was compared at the inquest to a Roman Candle and a ‘humongous box of sparklers being set off’.
The inquest was told how paramedic Emma Spencer shouted ‘Oh God’ as the flames ignited the armchair where Mrs Hadley was sitting.
Mrs Hadley’s family and the two paramedics were forced to flee as flames engulfed the property.
In a statement read out by senior coroner Zafar Siddique, Mr Hadley told how he saw a flash out the corner of his eye as the canister was turned on.
He said: ‘We called 999 because was Lynn was having a high temperature, unable to stand and was lethargic.
‘The paramedics arrived. They were wearing full PPE. The male paramedic asked Lynn a couple of questions while the female paramedic took her temperature.
‘The paramedics decided oxygen was needed and the female paramedic took an oxygen bottle and placed it on an armchair.
‘I saw a flash in the corner of my eye. I heard the paramedic that was next to the oxygen tank shout “Oh God”.
‘I saw sparks coming out of the cylinder and heard the gas start to ignite. The male paramedic tried to pull Lynn out of the way of the cylinder. The room was full of black smoke.
‘I saw fire across the floor. I managed to grab her arm but due to the smoke I had to get out to the garden.
‘We went into the conservatory and out to the front of the property. We tried to get back into the house. Police and fire crews then arrived at the scene.’
Mrs Hadley’s daughter Kelly said: ‘We rang 999 just before 5pm.
‘I met the paramedics outside and they put on PPE in the back of the ambulance. I stood back for social distancing and they went into the living room.
‘The female paramedic took an oxygen cylinder, took the covering off and attached the mask to my mum’s face.
‘When the female paramedic turned the valve it sparked like a Roman Candle. They tried to pull the chair away from the cylinder.
‘I heard someone shout: “Oh God”. I had to run to move Mackenzie as she was upstairs.’
Police, firefighters, two more ambulances and a Hazardous Area Response Team were sent to the scene of the blast, which completely destroyed the roof and conservatory.
Ms Spencer, who has worked at West Midlands Ambulance Service for three years, said: ‘She (Mrs Hadley) was quite an unwell lady.
‘I asked my colleague Steve Kelly if he would like to put some oxygen into Mrs Hadley.
Mrs Hadley’s family and the two paramedics were forced to flee as flames engulfed the property
In a statement read out by senior coroner Zafar Siddique, Mr Hadley told how he saw he saw a flash out the corner of his eye as the canister was turned on. Pictured: Mrs Hadley’s house in Walsall
‘We agreed to give oxygen and took a cylinder out. It had a cellphone wrapper round the top which indicates it is a new cylinder.
Ms Spencer said the cylinder’s seal was intact and the cylinder was in data and full.
She said: ‘We started to see almost instantly there was an ignition like a humongous box of sparklers being set off.
‘There were sparks and it got bigger and bigger rather quickly. It was round the casing area, the top area.
‘I jumped out of the way, my foot got caught in the waste paper bin I fell over. Mr Hadley helped me up.
‘When I looked back there was almighty sparks coming off. I remember leaving the building and pressing my emergency button to call for help.
‘The oxygen mask was still attached when I moved. It was seconds, absolute seconds.
‘I stood in the doorway between conservatory and lounge. That was when I looked back and saw it was sparking quite significantly.
‘I found Steve and the patient’s husband attempting to go back to rescue Mrs Hadley. It was a failed attempt.’
She added: ‘I just saw the oxygen cylinder sparks and saw Steve and Mr Hadley try to move the chair Mrs Hadley was in. That was when I went out to the garden.
‘Mr Hadley came out of the building. Control had radioed back saying they were sending fire crews.
‘I placed a cordon round the house with members of the public because I was frightened it was going to blow up and we waited for assistance.
‘I’m so terribly sorry to the family they had to endure this.’
Today, at the inquest, fire investigation officer Jason Dean said the type of ignition that caused the blast was ‘extremely rare’ and a ‘once in a lifetime case’.
Giving evidence, he said: ‘Mrs Hadley was still in the armchair she was being treated in.
‘The oxygen cylinder hadn’t really moved in relation to where it had been.
Today, at the inquest, fire investigation officer Jason Dean told the court the type of ignition that caused the blast was ‘extremely rare’ and a ‘once in a lifetime case’. Pictured: The fire engulfed the house in Sheffield
The fire gutted the house in Walsall, West Midlands, and the roof collapsed during the blaze
‘It is an MGS solutions cylinder. It is pure oxygen used for medical treatment.’
He said the heat and sparks would have come from a regulator in the cylinder – where the oxygen passes at ‘such as a speed’.
However, he added: ‘This kind of ignition is extremely rare. As soon as I carried out this investigation I noticed there were some cylinders turned on and off. There was little if any understanding of adiabatic compression.
‘It is a very sad case and a once in a lifetime case for someone in my position. In my considered opinion it was a tragic accident.
‘In 28 years of my career I have never come across an incident like this before. There was a one in ten million chance of it happening.’
Paramedic Stephen Kelly also told the inquest how the flames took hold ‘in seconds’ as he battled to try and save Mrs Hadley from the blaze.
He described how he tried to run back into the property in a bid to rescue the patient but was hit by a ‘wall’ of heat and smoke.
Mr Kelly, a technician with West Midlands Ambulance Service for 12 years, said: ‘I noticed Emma had run past quickly. I could hear this almighty spitting noise. I described it as a sparkler.
‘In a few seconds it took hold and we tried to move the patient. I heard a spitting noise when she turned the tube on. In a split second I could see it catching fire.
‘My initial thought was to move Mrs Hadley in her chair with her husband but we couldn’t.’
The coroner asked him: ‘Was there any attempt made to move the cylinder?’
He replied: ‘No. It was split seconds. It was catching fire very quickly.
‘We tried to move the chair away from the initial danger. It was futile. I couldn’t do it.
‘It was catching fire. We tried to get out of the property and get Mr Hadley out as well.
‘I remember looking at the bottle. It took a split second and it had caught fire. There was no smoke, but there were sparks.
‘I was thinking it was going to explode. I tried to move her away from danger. It just couldn’t be done
‘Split seconds is all I can say. It was like a wall and I went out of the house. It was a huge shock, absolutely terrible.
The inquest, which is expected to last four days, resumes tomorrow.