An inquest heard the tragic details of Charmaine Slater’s house fire death (Image: Gwent Police)
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A disabled woman who was trapped in a house fire made desperate calls to her husband to tell him smoke was upstairs and she couldn't breathe.
Charmaine Slater, 56, was unable to escape the blaze from her property in Caldicot, Wales.
On Tuesday an inquest at Newport Coroners’ Court heard she died in an upstairs bedroom at her home alongside her two dogs on May 28 last year.
Despite the efforts of husband Gary and emergency services to enter the property the fire was too fierce to allow anyone to get inside, Wales Online reports.
Fire investigator Mark Samuel said the only way Mrs Slater could have escaped the property was through an upstairs window.
Tragically, nothing could be done to save the mum and her two dogs trapped in the home
(Image: Mark Lewis)
But the mum-of-two was paralysed on her left side following a brain haemorrhage years before and was dependent on a mobility scooter.
Police constable Ross Martin, based at Chepstow Police Station, said he went to the property at Deepweir after he noticed black smoke coming from its rear, which he initially thought was a bonfire.
He said when he turned into the street he saw a man – Gary Slater – waving at him and pointing at the house.
The blaze ripped through the property with such ferocity emergency services could not save her
(Image: Mark Lewis)
“I tried to get through the front of the property but the heat was too unbearable to stand at the front door,” PC Martin said. “There was no way I could get into the property. My next step was to evacuate the neighbours.”
Paramedics and emergency services arrived at the property shortly after 12.45pm but couldn’t access the building for some time.
In a statement, Mrs Slater’s son Martin told the court how his mother had relied on the family’s support and had used a mobility scooter for more than 15 years following a brain haemorrhage which had left her in a coma for several weeks.
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“I had a call on May 28 at around 12.30pm saying that I needed to get to the house because there was a fire and mum was trapped inside,” Martin said.
“Dad told me mum had rang him and said smoke was coming from downstairs and she was trapped in the bedroom. She then rang again to say she couldn’t breathe.”
Following his team’s investigations Mr Samuel said there was no evidence Mrs Slater had called the emergency services on the day of her death and it didn’t seem any smoke detectors had been fitted at the house.
He said: “The stairs were totally destroyed and the only access out of the house would have been through a window. Some of the ceiling had come down in the bedroom but there was no sign of severe heat or fire damage in the bedroom.”
The blackened ruins of the home in the aftermath of the fire tragedy
(Image: Mark Lewis)
He concluded that the fire had probably been caused by a fault with Mrs Slater’s refrigerator in her kitchen.
“There were no concerns with the setup,” he added.
“It is more likely that it was the fridge itself. There wasn’t an overloading issue. The only thing for us was the electricity issue, which we believe was caused by a faulty appliance.”
A toxicology report which was carried out in the days after Mrs Slater’s death advised she died by carbon monoxide toxicity and had suffered heat injury.
Senior coroner for Gwent Caroline Saunders determined the cause of death as carbon monoxide toxicity and part two heat injury.
Ms Saunders issued a narrative conclusion.
She said: “On May 28, 2020, a fire started in Charmaine Slater’s home due to an electrical fault in the fridge. The fire spread and Charmaine was unable to escape the house and suffered the effects of a fire. She died of smoke inhalation.”
Following her death Caldicot residents set up a fundraiser to support her family. In tribute Mrs Slater’s family said: “There are no words to describe how we, as a family, are feeling.
“For those who knew Charmaine knew she was a loving mother, grandmother, and wife.
“Charmaine absolutely loved her music and would often ride her mobility scooter to the shops, blasting her favourite reggae tunes.
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“She was well-known around the castle grounds where she liked to go to feed the ducks and other wildlife, often stopping off at the local pub for a nice cold drink.
“Charmaine thrived off having a simple life, spending time with her beloved dogs and enjoying her favourite soaps.
“We cannot thank the community enough for all their kind words and gestures but ask for privacy during this time so we can begin to process our shock and grief.”