A CORONER has ruled the death of an elderly man who fell into a fire pit was the result of misadventure and there were no suspicious circumstances.
Frederick Richard London Middleton’s body was recovered from the bottom of a 25m-long, 3m-wide fire pit at a property off Eastern Avenue in Kentucky, near Armidale, on September 15, 2014.
The then 81-year-old widower had lived at the property since 1978 and the pit was used to dispose of rubbish contained on the property, an inquest in Armidale Coroner’s Court heard.
On Thursday, Coroner Michael Holmes delivered his findings into the death, which was the result of several reviews.
On the balance of probabilities, I find that as a result of misadventure Frederick Richard London Middleton died … when he accidentally fell into a fire pit situated at the said property and was incinerated.Coroner Michael Holmes
“On the balance of probabilities, I find that as a result of misadventure Frederick Richard London Middleton died … when he accidentally fell into a fire pit situated at the said property and was incinerated,” he said.
The court heard the officer-in-charge “believed that from his investigations it was likely that Mr Middleton lost his balance and fell into the fire-pit accidentally”.
Witnesses told police that in the weeks leading up to Mr Middleton’s death they “had witnessed him fall” and “he was a bit overbalanced”.
On September 15, 2014, Mr Middleton was with a friend and were burning off rubbish in the fire-pit, and the court heard the pit had been continuously burning for some days prior.
Mr Holmes said about 3.30pm Mr Middleton told the woman he was going to move rose bushes from the back of the house and put them in the fire-pit, while the woman continued reading a book in the house.
She went looking for him about 6pm and found the ride-on mower idle next to the put.
[The woman] turned the motor off and it was then when she found Mr Middleton lying in the fire-pit deceased.Coroner Michael Holmes
“[The woman] turned the motor off and it was then when she found Mr Middleton lying in the fire-pit deceased,” he said.
No one saw the incident but police and paramedics were called and the fire-pit was extinguished to enable rescue personnel to enter the pit.
“Mr Middleton’s body was recovered and it was evident that his body had been burnt in an extensive manner,” Mr Holmes said in his fidnings.
The court heard the delay in the inquest and findings being delivered was because there were a number of reviews “carried out in the matter in consultation with police investigators leading to further investigations being conducted regarding the circumstances surrounding the death”.