Neighbours battled in vain to save Bottesford woman from ferocious house fire

The cottage in Grantham Road, Bottesford. Occupant Lesley Grice (57) died in the blaze despite neighbours' brave attempts to rescue her EMN-150714-145004001
The cottage in Grantham Road, Bottesford. Occupant Lesley Grice (57) died in the blaze despite neighbours' brave attempts to rescue her EMN-150714-145004001
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An inquest heard how neighbours made desperate attempts to rescue a woman from a house fire, which reached temperatures of up to 900 degrees celsius, but despite their brave efforts they couldn’t save her.

Anthony Smith was doing his gardening when he smelt smoke and when he went to the front of his neighbour Lesley Grice’s home in Grantham Road, Bottesford, he saw it coming out of the chimney and top bedroom window.

Mr Smith shouted to neighbours to call 999 and then managed to open the back door. When he shouted her name he heard a groaning noise but despite repeated attempts he couldn’t reach her because of the intense heat and smoke.

He went back round to the front and kicked the door open but the blow back and fierce flames prevented him from entering. Another neighbour, Simon Allen, also tried to help to get inside the house but the blaze and the thick black smoke had taken over the property.

The dramatic rescue attempts and the sad tragic outcome of the blaze, which broke out just before 2pm on April 19, were relived as area coroner Carolyn Hull summarised witness reports at today’s Loughborough Coroner’s Court hearing.

She read from a report given by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue fire protection officer Andrew Quine who said Mrs Grice’s body was found at the bottom of the stairs. Fire crews from Grantham and Newark had attended the scene after receiving calls from members of the public who believed someone may have been trapped inside.

In his account Mr Quine said the cause of the blaze was most likely to have been a discarded cigarette which had initially set a sofa alight before the fire spread from the ground floor to the first floor, breaking into the roof linings and causing the roof to collapse inwards before spreading to adjoining properties.

The inquest heard that Mrs Grice (57) was a heavy drinker and that alcohol was found where the fire had started.

In his report Mr Quine said the consumption of alcohol ‘might have impaired her judgement, caused her to fall asleep or relax’ before the fire started.

He also confirmed there was no evidence of a smoke alarm found in the property.

In his report pathologist professor Guy Rutty said Mrs Grice, who was the only person in the house, had consumed 270 milligrammes of alcohol prior to her death - the equivalent of being more than three times over the legal drink drive limit (80mg of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood).

Prof Rutty said it was ‘likely Mrs Grice was intoxicated’ and therefore had a ‘reduced capacity to respond to stimuli’.

He gave Mrs Grice’s cause of death as ‘inhalation of products of combustion’ and ‘alcohol intoxication’.

Ms Hull ruled that Mrs Grice had died as a result of an accident. She added: “I’d like to thank the neighbours who tried to offer assistance to her at the time and pass on my sincere condolences to her next of kin.”