SUtton woman died despite heroic efforts of neighbour

NMAC11-0750-1''Sutton, 78 Stuart Street, House Fire.
NMAC11-0750-1''Sutton, 78 Stuart Street, House Fire.

A FORMER Sutton lollipop lady died after she lit a cigarette and accidentally started a fire in her home, an inquest was told.

Sylvia Tomlinson (83) died in hospital on 23rd March this year, just hours after being rescued when a fire broke out at her semi-detached home on Stuart Street in Sutton.

An inquest at Nottingham Coroner’s Court was told that next-door neighbour Chris Baker was alerted to the blaze after hearing a smoke alarm.

He was cooking at the time and it was only when his partner asked if he had burnt something that he stopped and heard the alarm.

He went outside and could see flames and smoke in the front room of Sylvia’s home.

Brave Chris then kicked down her front door and battled through the smoke on his hands and knees into the living room, where Sylvia was conscious and asking for help.

He pulled her away from the fire but was defeated by the smoke and heat, sustaining numerous minor burns and the effects of smoke inhalation himself.

Chris (28), who had known Sylvia for 20 years, later told police: “I did all I could to help Sylvia out of the fire.

“I would have done anything to save Sylvia.”

The inquest was told that Sylvia, a widow and mum-of-five, had been tucked up on her sofa by daughter Susan - her main carer - at around 9.30pm on the day of the fire.

Susan was due to come back to put her mum to bed between 11-11.30pm and had left her in the meantime to eat a piece of cake and with a cigarette and a lighter.

A fire service investigation report into the incident found that the fire was started as a result of Sylvia attempting to light the cigarette.

It is thought that she accidentally set light to either clothing or bedding which started a small, slow-burning fire.

Nottinghamshire coroner Mairin Casey recorded a verdict of accidental death.

She said it was a ‘tragic case’ and warned of the high risk of fatalities from fires that seem to arise when elderly people are smoking in their homes.

Chris was recently awarded a Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation for his bravery and the courage he showed helping Sylvia.

His valiant actions meant that Sylvia’s family could be with her when she died hours later in King’s Mill Hospital.

Chris said it was ‘very emotional’ to receive the award.

“I just had to get her out, that’s all I was thinking,” he said.

“I still think about it every day, and even if I hear a smoke alarm on TV, my heart stops.”

Sylvia worked at Leamington Primary School as a lollipop lady for several years and also as a cleaner at Sutton Centre and a shop assistant.

She was originally from Edlington in Doncaster, but moved to Sutton in 1949 where she met her husband Sid who died in 1997.

She was a familiar face at St Joseph’s Social Club in Sutton and was also a keen bingo player.

Speaking shortly after her death, her daughter Karen said that the family was ‘devastated’ by their loss.

Son Adrian added: “She was the life and soul of any party, she was very sociable and loved a good knees-up, she will be missed by all her children, grand-children and great grandchildren.”