Eastbourne man dies after setting himself alight

The scene at Sorrel Drive SUS-180602-155813001
The scene at Sorrel Drive SUS-180602-155813001

An Eastbourne man died after his hair and beard caught fire when he lit a cigarette.

An inquest heard today (Thursday) that David Driver staggered from room to room in his Sorrel Drive flat trying to extinguish the flames on his body.

The scene at Sorrel Drive SUS-180602-162946001

The scene at Sorrel Drive SUS-180602-162946001

He eventually ran down the stairs of his council home and into the garden where he collapsed and died.

A post mortem revealed he had died from severe burns to his body.

Fifty-four-year-old Mr Driver was described as a loner and a vulnerable adult who needed help and support from social workers. He also smoked and drank heavily.

Both social worker Deborah Wheaton and council housing officer Theresa Ticehurst said Mr Driver was a friendly man and everybody on the estate knew him.

“When he was out and about he would stop and chat to people,” said Ms Ticehurst. “He was a lovely man.”

The inquest heard during the late morning of February 6, neighbour Alan Taylor, who knew Mr Driver, heard a smoke alarm sounding and could smell burning in the air but did not see anything suspicious.

It was only later that Ms Duke saw Mr Driver’s body curled in the foetus position outside his front door as she was driven to work.

PCs Emily Dudley and Norah Henry were among the first police officers to arrive at the scene.

The area outside the flat and part of the road was cordoned off for several hours as police treated his death as unexplained.

Detective Inspector Neil Bates told the inquest he was satisfied nobody else was involved in Mr Driver’s death.

Fire investigation officer David Thurston said evidence inside the flat showed Mr Driver had been sitting on a sofa in his flat and lit a cigarette.

The flame from the lighter caught his beard and hair alight and it spread quickly to his clothes, said Mr Thurston.

“He tried to put the fire out himself, went into the kitchen to get water and started to fill the bath in the bathroom,” said the fire officer.

“He then went down the stairs and outside where he collapsed on to the grass.”

A verdict of accidental death was recorded by East Sussex coroner Alan Craze at the end of the inquest at the Town Hall.