Coroner's warning after candlelit bath cost life of woman, 72

TRAGEDY: Bottles used as makeshift candle-holders in Shirley Shaw's bathroom

TRAGEDY: Bottles used as makeshift candle-holders in Shirley Shaw's bathroom

First published in News
Last updated
Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

THIS was how tragic fire victim pensioner Shirley Shaw lit candles ready for a relaxing bath night that cost her life.

Assistant Bradford Coroner Dr Dominic Bell today decided to release the reconstruction image of what firefighters and paramedics found when the badly-burned 72-year-old, of Ravenscliffe Avenue, Bradford, dialled 999 for help.

He said he wanted people to see the danger of using empty bottles, some plastic, as makeshift candleholders that can fall over and have devastating consequences.

The inquest heard how Mrs Shaw, who lived alone, had put candles in empty bottles around the bathroom floor while she was running her water but a naked flame from one of the candles ignited her skirt as she turned to get a towel.

As she struggled to put out the flames with her bare hands, they spread not just over the rest of her clothing but also to the shower curtain melting it so much that the plastic pooled on to the floor.

The Bradford inquest heard how Mrs Shaw had used water to cool her burns before going downstairs and ringing for help.

She was sitting on a chair in the kitchen upset with herself when a first response paramedic arrived and had to struggle to get through the unlocked door, made difficult to open because of lots of items kept behind it.

She told paramedic Daniel Mohammed, who found it difficult to move about in the cluttered kitchen, she had been filling the bath to have a relaxing soak when it happened and it was her own fault.

Mrs Shaw was taken to Bradford Royal Infirmary with severe burns to more than 40 per cent of her body and was later transferred to the burns unit at Pinderfields General Infirmary for surgery and specialist care.

The inquest heard during a hospital visit from her daughter Karen she told them "It was a silly thing to do" making it clear it had been an accident.

Despite maximum care, complications set in with pneumonia before multi-organ failure and ultimately her death on April 22 this year.

In his report, fire investigating officer Gary Kendrew said people have to be incredibly careful with naked flames, making sure they are in proper holders so they do not fall over, he added: "Placing candles in makeshift holders is an unsafe practice."

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Dr Bell said he felt justified making Mrs Shaw's bathroom scene public because without it the fire service's safety message "seemed a bit of an under statement".

"I hope in the least it makes people shudder," he said.

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