Welder died after accidentally setting himself on fire, inquest told
A welder died as a result of injuries he suffered when he accidentally set himself on fire, an inquest heard yesterday.
Experienced Martyn Heal, 56, received 20 per cent burns to his back and chest in the accident as he worked on a gate in February 2011.
A grinding machine he had often used sparked and set fire to his clothing as he worked alone in Portbury, Somerset.
He battled his injuries for five months in intensive care, but died from pneumonia aggravated by the burns days after his family were told he was recovering.
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Mr Heal, who had 38 years’ experience, told health and safety inspectors how he suddenly realised his back was on fire and he started tearing at his clothing.
He told them from his hospital bed: “I don’t remember much, I was very badly burnt.
“I did some grinding, then I felt my back becoming very hot, so I tried to turn my head, but as I looked there was a whoosh of flame.
“I think this was my shirt going up in flames. There was nobody there to help me and no water.
“I tried to pull at my shirt to stop it burning me. I remember it pulling and hurting.”
The inquest at Flax Bourton, near Bristol, heard how Mr Heal managed to rip the burning shirt off his back before calling his boss, Ian Blake.
He was taken home to his wife Kim, a nurse, who immediately recognised the severity of his burns and rushed him to hospital.
Mr Heal underwent a series of operations, including a skin graft, but died in July 2011.
Pathologist Dr Ed Sheffield said he contracted respiratory problems as a result of his burns.
He said: “His burns were extensive – the left side of his back to the middle of his neck was burnt and his left under arm to his nipple were also affected.
“They were more extensive than initially appeared. They were actually more serious than you may expect.”
Dr Sheffield added: “There was evidence of what appeared to be quite successful treatment. He appeared to be recovering.
“He had developed pneumonia and an abscess in the upper part of his lung, however. I would say a 56-year-old man shouldn’t develop that. In my opinion, the burns might have made him more likely to contract this.
“He had significant respiratory problems within two days of the burn – it is quite common for people with burns to develop breathing problems at this point.
“As his burns are getting better his lungs are getting worse. They have flowed directly from the burn injury.”
The inquest, expected to last for two days, continues.