A mum from Stevenage died as a result of a blaze caused by her husband’s discarded cigar, an inquest heard.
Tragically, a fire alarm at Linda Baumeister’s Hopton Road home was disconnected, meaning that by the time she became aware of the emergency, it was too late.
Less than an hour before the fire broke out, husband George had stubbed out a cigar in the living room, before emptying his ashtray into a wicker waste paper basket.
The caretaker left for work, unaware that the cigar was still smouldering, and when the fire broke out it quickly spread, with toxic fumes from a burning sofa filling the house.
When fire crews arrived on the scene, they found Mrs Baumeister collapsed in an upstairs bedroom.
The 63-year-old died on February 4 as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and a brain injury suffered during the blaze.
The inquest heard it is unlikely she knew what was happening to her.
Mr Baumeister, who had shared the home for 33 years with his wife, told the inquest he had been smoking cigars downstairs for several years, and would always put the stubbed-out butt in a waste bin.
Coroner Edward Thomas responded: "I don’t want to criticise, obviously this is something you’ve been doing for years, but I do hope people understand the message it’s not safe."
The couple’s furious son, Greg Cherry, accused Mr Baumeister of lying about whether he was allowed to smoke in the lounge, saying: "You said it was OK for you to smoke in the living room, and mum had never said anything. That was a lie.
"When the living room was done up, mum told you you weren’t to smoke in there.
"You knew you weren’t allowed to smoke in the living room."
Fire investigator Andy Nunn told the inquest that the home would have filled with black, toxic fumes.
By the time a carbon monoxide alarm went off, it would have been too late.
"It would only take a couple of breaths for her to be overcome," he said.
A fire alarm had been disconnected because of decoration work being done in the house.
Mr Nunn said the alarm would have sounded far earlier than the carbon monoxide detector, and would have given her a chance to escape.
It is thought Mrs Baumeister, whose maiden name was Cherry, was asleep when the fire started.
The coroner said: "She wouldn’t have been understanding what had happened."
The patient was rushed to the nearby Lister Hospital, before being transferred to the James Padgett University Hospital in Great Yarmouth for specialist treatment.
But doctors were unable to save her.
Mr Edwards said: "For the purpose of this inquest, this in an accident, but this doesn’t always do justice to the awfulness of what happened.
"I just hope people will take note of what happened here and be very, very careful."
Mrs Baumeister had recently retired, having worked as a clerk at Stevenage District Land Registry, which had closed the previous year.
Mr Edwards told her family: "It must be so awful. She sounds quite a feisty character, she certainly tried to make the best of things."
The inquest heard that fire services recommend ashtrays are not emptied into indoor bins.
- Third fire in three days hits Advertiser area in Stotfold
- Tragic Charlotte drank "vast amounts" of alcohol before fatal balcony plunge
- Stevenage underground explosion leaves crater in ground
- Hitchin named in top ten places to live in the UK
- 'Jesus' back in court for urinating in town square
- Digital editions of The Advertiser