Retired nurse died after her oxygen caught fire

An oxygen image modelled by a mannequin

An oxygen image modelled by a mannequin

First published in News
Last updated
Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A RETIRED nurse died when her cigarette set light to oxygen being pumped from a tank through her nose, an inquest heard.

Sheila Pell was found slumped on the kitchen floor with a badly burned face by her husband Raymond.

Despite his efforts and those of paramedics, she could not be saved.

Mrs Pell, 67, of Melchet Park, Sherfield English, once smoked 60 a day but managed cut back to a couple a day, the inquest in Southampton was told.

In recent years she had become terminally ill with the breathing condition emphysema and needed oxygen.

Sheila was an experienced nurse, qualifying in 1971 and more recently working in Allenbrook Nursing Home, in Fordingbridge.

But despite working in the profession for more than 30 years, she was fiercely independent and did not want to be treated in hospital.

For this reason she had an oxygen backpack with a tube, and because of her frailty she had her bed in the lounge where the accident happened.

Devoted husband Raymond was not at the hearing, but a statement was read out detailing how he cared for her and how on the day she died, November 17, he had been upstairs asleep.

He said: “At no time did she call out for me. Why did she not call out for me and give me a chance to help her?

“That is something I will always be guilty about – I was not there to help. I was not there to help Sheila when she needed me most.

“When I walked into the kitchen she was slumped on the pantry door in the most horrible position.

“Her face was black with soot.

She had burn marks on her face.”

The inquest heard how Sheila had battled an alcohol problem and suffered panic attacks.

An empty wine bottle and a cigarette butt were found next to her body and tests found she had also taken painkillers.

Concluding the inquest, coroner Grahame Short said: “I am going to record the deceased suffered from chronic obstructive airways disease which had reached a terminal stage and required constant additional oxygen supply via a tube.

“She lit a cigarette which ignited the oxygen, causing burns to the face and inhalation of smoke.

“She went to the kitchen and collapsed on the floor where she was found.”

He added that the adrenaline surge caused by the explosion, alcohol and drugs had contributed to her death.

Comments (8)

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2:23pm Sat 14 Jun 14

sass says...

My dead father was not allowed oxygen because he was a smoker. A nurse should know better.
My dead father was not allowed oxygen because he was a smoker. A nurse should know better. sass
  • Score: 11

4:39pm Sat 14 Jun 14

StanB says...

Oxygen does not burn or the atmosphere would be alight, it does however accelerate burning immensely.
Oxygen does not burn or the atmosphere would be alight, it does however accelerate burning immensely. StanB
  • Score: 8

5:16pm Sat 14 Jun 14

Zexagon says...

Thanks to the echo confirming its a mannequin modelling the oxygen mask in the picture..
Thanks to the echo confirming its a mannequin modelling the oxygen mask in the picture.. Zexagon
  • Score: 7

6:35pm Sat 14 Jun 14

Huey says...

Pretty gross really
Pretty gross really Huey
  • Score: -2

7:29pm Sat 14 Jun 14

X Old Bill says...

I cannot believe that those were the actual words of a Coroner.
Oxygen DOES NOT BURN. Oxygen DOES NOT IGNITE.
Oxygen is apx 29% of the air which we breathe.
When something burns it combines with oxygen in the air. If something burns in pure oxygen then it burns faster and with greater ferocity.
That is what happened here - The cigarette burst into flames and anything inflammable in close proximity also caught fire assisted by a good supply of pure oxygen.
The picture of the oxygen mask is irrelevant to this story - The delivery system used in this case is, as indicated in the story, via a tube to the nose.
If she had been using a mask it is hard to see how she could have simultaneously smoked a cigarette.
I cannot believe that those were the actual words of a Coroner. Oxygen DOES NOT BURN. Oxygen DOES NOT IGNITE. Oxygen is apx 29% of the air which we breathe. When something burns it combines with oxygen in the air. If something burns in pure oxygen then it burns faster and with greater ferocity. That is what happened here - The cigarette burst into flames and anything inflammable in close proximity also caught fire assisted by a good supply of pure oxygen. The picture of the oxygen mask is irrelevant to this story - The delivery system used in this case is, as indicated in the story, via a tube to the nose. If she had been using a mask it is hard to see how she could have simultaneously smoked a cigarette. X Old Bill
  • Score: 13

1:37am Sun 15 Jun 14

huckit P says...

X Old Bill wrote:
I cannot believe that those were the actual words of a Coroner.
Oxygen DOES NOT BURN. Oxygen DOES NOT IGNITE.
Oxygen is apx 29% of the air which we breathe.
When something burns it combines with oxygen in the air. If something burns in pure oxygen then it burns faster and with greater ferocity.
That is what happened here - The cigarette burst into flames and anything inflammable in close proximity also caught fire assisted by a good supply of pure oxygen.
The picture of the oxygen mask is irrelevant to this story - The delivery system used in this case is, as indicated in the story, via a tube to the nose.
If she had been using a mask it is hard to see how she could have simultaneously smoked a cigarette.
You are correct to say that oxygen doesn't burn but your percentages are incorrect.
Oxygen makes up 20.95% of the air we breathe. Nitrogen accounts for 78.09% and the rest is made up of carbon dioxide, argon and other gases. This was some of the basic stuff taught during breathing apparatus courses in the fire service.
Oxygen-enriched atmospheres cause combustible material to burn fiercely, often with explosive results, but oxygen itself does not ignite. The Coroner (of all people) needs to get his facts straight.
[quote][p][bold]X Old Bill[/bold] wrote: I cannot believe that those were the actual words of a Coroner. Oxygen DOES NOT BURN. Oxygen DOES NOT IGNITE. Oxygen is apx 29% of the air which we breathe. When something burns it combines with oxygen in the air. If something burns in pure oxygen then it burns faster and with greater ferocity. That is what happened here - The cigarette burst into flames and anything inflammable in close proximity also caught fire assisted by a good supply of pure oxygen. The picture of the oxygen mask is irrelevant to this story - The delivery system used in this case is, as indicated in the story, via a tube to the nose. If she had been using a mask it is hard to see how she could have simultaneously smoked a cigarette.[/p][/quote]You are correct to say that oxygen doesn't burn but your percentages are incorrect. Oxygen makes up 20.95% of the air we breathe. Nitrogen accounts for 78.09% and the rest is made up of carbon dioxide, argon and other gases. This was some of the basic stuff taught during breathing apparatus courses in the fire service. Oxygen-enriched atmospheres cause combustible material to burn fiercely, often with explosive results, but oxygen itself does not ignite. The Coroner (of all people) needs to get his facts straight. huckit P
  • Score: 11

8:43am Sun 15 Jun 14

X Old Bill says...

huckit P wrote:
X Old Bill wrote:
I cannot believe that those were the actual words of a Coroner.
Oxygen DOES NOT BURN. Oxygen DOES NOT IGNITE.
Oxygen is apx 29% of the air which we breathe.
When something burns it combines with oxygen in the air. If something burns in pure oxygen then it burns faster and with greater ferocity.
That is what happened here - The cigarette burst into flames and anything inflammable in close proximity also caught fire assisted by a good supply of pure oxygen.
The picture of the oxygen mask is irrelevant to this story - The delivery system used in this case is, as indicated in the story, via a tube to the nose.
If she had been using a mask it is hard to see how she could have simultaneously smoked a cigarette.
You are correct to say that oxygen doesn't burn but your percentages are incorrect.
Oxygen makes up 20.95% of the air we breathe. Nitrogen accounts for 78.09% and the rest is made up of carbon dioxide, argon and other gases. This was some of the basic stuff taught during breathing apparatus courses in the fire service.
Oxygen-enriched atmospheres cause combustible material to burn fiercely, often with explosive results, but oxygen itself does not ignite. The Coroner (of all people) needs to get his facts straight.
Yes quite so! I didn't think anyone would bother to read it, much less spot my error.
I will blame my tablet device - it always seems to want to 'correct' my input (and omit a zero in this case).
[quote][p][bold]huckit P[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]X Old Bill[/bold] wrote: I cannot believe that those were the actual words of a Coroner. Oxygen DOES NOT BURN. Oxygen DOES NOT IGNITE. Oxygen is apx 29% of the air which we breathe. When something burns it combines with oxygen in the air. If something burns in pure oxygen then it burns faster and with greater ferocity. That is what happened here - The cigarette burst into flames and anything inflammable in close proximity also caught fire assisted by a good supply of pure oxygen. The picture of the oxygen mask is irrelevant to this story - The delivery system used in this case is, as indicated in the story, via a tube to the nose. If she had been using a mask it is hard to see how she could have simultaneously smoked a cigarette.[/p][/quote]You are correct to say that oxygen doesn't burn but your percentages are incorrect. Oxygen makes up 20.95% of the air we breathe. Nitrogen accounts for 78.09% and the rest is made up of carbon dioxide, argon and other gases. This was some of the basic stuff taught during breathing apparatus courses in the fire service. Oxygen-enriched atmospheres cause combustible material to burn fiercely, often with explosive results, but oxygen itself does not ignite. The Coroner (of all people) needs to get his facts straight.[/p][/quote]Yes quite so! I didn't think anyone would bother to read it, much less spot my error. I will blame my tablet device - it always seems to want to 'correct' my input (and omit a zero in this case). X Old Bill
  • Score: 1

4:24pm Sun 15 Jun 14

espanuel says...

sass wrote:
My dead father was not allowed oxygen because he was a smoker. A nurse should know better.
I think you should read this story again. The lady had problems, long time problems. You could have put ( my father was not allowed oxygen because he was a smoker).
[quote][p][bold]sass[/bold] wrote: My dead father was not allowed oxygen because he was a smoker. A nurse should know better.[/p][/quote]I think you should read this story again. The lady had problems, long time problems. You could have put ( my father was not allowed oxygen because he was a smoker). espanuel
  • Score: -6

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