Warning after South Tyneside man died after falling asleep with cigarette

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Fire chiefs have issued a warning after a South Tyneside man died after falling asleep with a smouldering cigarette,

Lee Devlin’s body was discovered covered in soot on a sofa by a neighbour at his home in Stanhope Road, South Shields, on May 8.

Assistant coroner Vic Laffey heard at an inquest held in Hebburn yesterday how the 41-year-old had a few drinks before he ‘most likely’ settled down to relax just before midnight.

However, it’s understood Mr Devlin woke from his sleep as the roll-up cigarette burnt through the sofa he was sitting on.

Despite stumbling round the room Mr Devlin was unable to free himself, and tripped over a metal coffee table, before succumbing to the smoke.

The fire was only small, and had burned itself out by the time Mr Devlin was found the following morning at about 9.30am.

Fire officers are now warning people to ensure smoke alarms are fitted in their homes.

Group manager Graeme Hurst from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Devlin.

“Our primary aim is to save lives, and it is devastating that on this occasion, a life was lost.

“To protect your home and your loved ones, our advice is to make sure you have a working smoke alarm on every floor and to test the batteries regularly.

“Be careful with cigarettes and always ensure they are extinguished properly. In the event of a fire, get out, stay out, and call 999.

“You can also visit our website for further advice on protecting your home, or to request a home safety check.”

Pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper told the inquest that Mr Devlin was twice over the legal drink-drive limit, so was likely to be intoxicated.

Soot was found in his lungs and he had a carbon monoxide level of 59% - with less than 3% being the norm.

He said: “I don’t have any doubt he died due to inhalation of smoke.”

Mr Laffey added: “An accident death is the only logical conclusion.”