Man ‘who went out of his way to look after others’ died in chip pan house fire

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A man was killed in a house fire after putting a chip pan on and falling asleep, an inquest has been heard.

Robert Costello, 66, returned to his home in Wenlock Grove, Hindley, in the early hours of August 21, 2021, after going for drinks at a local pub.

Just after 2am, his next door neighbor noticed some smoke in their home and rang the fire brigade.

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When fire crews arrived, they initially checked the neighbor’s home and found that there was no battery in the smoke alarm.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service investigator Peter Stone told Bolton Coroner’s Court that firefighters then forced their way into Mr Costello’s house and put out a fire in the kitchen.

I have added that there was “zero visibility” in the house because of the smoke levels.

Mr Stone told the inquest that the smoke alarm in Mr Costello’s home also did not have a battery in but said that there had been damage to the ceiling and a battery was found on the floor close to the smoke alarm.

Mr Costello was found in the house and was taken outside to be given first aid but was later pronounced dead at the scene.

His pet dog also died in the blaze.

Robert Costello and his pet dog were both killed in the blaze

Investigation work concluded that oil in a chip pan had boiled over and caught fire on the gas hob, which had then spread to other parts of the kitchen.

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Pathologist Dr David Barker carried out a post mortem on Mr Costello’s body and recorded ‘smoke inhalation’ as the medical cause of his death.

A toxicological report also found that he had between two and three times the legal drink drive limit of alcohol in his system at the time.

Mr Costello’s son Wayne Costello told the inquest that his dad had diabetes and that drinking tended to affect him more if he was “struggling” with the condition.

He added that it was “unusual” for Mr Costello to cook after returning home from the pub and that he would “usually just have a butty”.

A statement from Mr Costello’s GP confirmed that he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005 but that it was generally well controlled. It also stated that he had ischemic heart disease and a history of high blood pressure.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Simon Nelson concluded that Mr Costello had fallen asleep after leaving oil to heat up over a gas hob.

Colonel Simon Nelson

Issuing a warning about smoke alarms, Mr Nelson said: “The fact that there were fire alarms both in Robert Costello’s property and next door proves how important it is for every household to have at least one fire alarm in the appropriate position, but to ensure that the fire alarm is regularly monitored or checked on a regular basis.”

Turning to Mr Costello’s family, he said; “I am sure you will have some very special memories over the years.

“From your statement, he was certainly one for looking after others and would go out of his way to do that.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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