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.