Father-of-two with ‘devil-may-care’ attitude dies after flicking cigarette inside home, inquest hears

Stephen Bowman died hours after being rescued from the fire at his home

A man died from severe burns after flicking a cigarette behind a cabinet which set the home he was living in with his mother alight, an inquest heard.

Firefighters pulled retired electrician Stephen Bowman from his flaming semi-detached home, on Beaufort Avenue, Yate, on the evening of December 15 last year.

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The 62-year-old was rushed to Southmead Hospital, but due to the burns he had sustained he died a few hours later.

Mr Bowman’s elderly mother, with whom he shared the property, escaped unharmed after a neighbour noticed flames in a bedroom window and raised the alarm.

An inquest at Avon Coroner’s Court heard this morning that a post-mortem report found ‘high levels’ of alcohol in Mr Bowman’s system at the time of his death.

The inquest was heard at Avon Coroner’s Court.

The court heard that he had abused alcohol for decades, attempted suicide in 2001 and had a history of seizures, falls and unsteadiness.

Mr Bowman had been referred to alcohol treatment services in 2020, but by that time his health had taken a turn for the worse and he was ‘largely bedbound’ during his later years.

His sister Sonia provided a statement which was read aloud to the court. She said that Mr Bowman, who had once served in the Royal Navy and been popular as a young adult, had been ‘unhappy’ after being plagued by alcohol addiction for many years.

Despite his ‘charm and intelligence’, this addiction had eventually led to the downfall of Mr Bowman’s marriage.

Sonia said that he had developed a ‘devil may care’ attitude and would often carelessly dispose of cigarettes around the house.

Although his relationship with his mother had become strained, Sonia added that Mr Bowman was ‘well loved’ by his family and had two children in their 30s.

Steve Miles, station manager at Avon Fire and Rescue, said that the service had carried out an investigation into the cause of the fire which was ‘accidental, likely due to a discarded cigarette found behind a side cabinet’ next to Mr Bowman’s bed.

Assistant coroner for the Avon area, Myfanwy Buckeridge said that Mr Bowman had consumed high levels of alcohol and discarded a cigarette while in bed, but there was ‘nothing to suggest to her’ that the fire had been a deliberate act.

She concluded: “This was a death due to accident.”