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Boyfriend describes horror of blaze that killed Sharron McQuarrie
THE Devastated boyfriend of Sharron McQuarrie, who died in a house fire in Abbey Meads last year, has described the blaze which took her life on her 31st birthday.
Ian Singleton, assistant coroner for Wiltshire, was unable to determine whether the fire at Thorley Court was accidental or deliberate at an inquest in Salisbury Coroners Court today.
Speaking after the hearing, Jane McQuarrie, Sharron's twin sister, said: “This is a very sad end for a girl who was very troubled.”
The court heard how Sharron had been going through treatment with Swindon and Wiltshire Alcohol and Drugs Service in the weeks prior to her death.
Medical records showed she had attended an assessment on 9 October, and was prescribed medication. She was told the importance of not drinking alcohol while on the medication.
But during a meeting on 1 November, she commented she had been drinking, and had been due to return on 14 November. She never made that appointment, and died on the morning of 19 November after celebrating her birthday with partner Robert Vaughan.
Sharron had also been given warning of her benefits being reduced, and had been forced to give notice on her flat.
The court heard how Sharron and Robert, known as Sam to friends, went out for her birthday on 18 November and returned home at around 9pm.
The electricity meter only had £1.64 remaining, so Sharron lit tea lights on the dressing table by the bed.
Robert fell asleep at around midnight, and awoke soon after to find the room ablaze.
“She did have problems drinking to excess," said Robert.
“She had a fair bit of alcohol that night, and we had a bottle of vodka open when we got back.
“We went to bed around midnight, and when I woke up my leg was burning. Within seconds I noticed the flames on the wall. I looked around for Sharon but she wasn't in the room. I called out to her and heard a muffled cry. I found her propped up in the kitchen. She didn't seem to be completely with it. She was lying on her shoulder and barely conscious. I said to her we had to get out.
“The fire had completely engulfed the right hand side of the bedroom. The smoke was everywhere, and I was choking. It was like trying to suck hot gravel through a sponge.
“I tried to break the kitchen window but couldn't. I went to the door and undid the chains. As I opened it I got pushed back by a cold blast of air. Sharon had been on my shoulder, and we both fell back. She lost her grip on me, and that was the last time I saw her.”
Two fire appliances and 10 firefighters were dispatched from Stratton upon receiving the call. They arrived at the flat at 1.41am, five minutes after being alerted.
Robert had been fighting to rescue Sharron but a gust of pressure threw him out of the flat, locking the door behind him and trapping her inside.
“I turned back to get her but found myself on the other side of the door," he said. "I don't know how the door closed. I tried to get back in but a ball of flames engulfed me. I could not see Sharon anywhere. I was on my hands and knees, but I knew I had to get her out.
“I was screaming and shouting for help. I went to a neighbour and pounded on their door screaming for help, but I had no answer. I shuffled downstairs and pounded on the flat below. They answered, and I can't remember what they said but the door shut and nobody came to help.
“I pulled myself back up the stairs and coughed up some blood. I could barely breath and had to get some air. I was still shouting for help but none came.”
Officers who attended the scene found Robert huddled in a ball on the ground outside, with burns to his hands, arms and face. Fire fighters forced entry to the property and recovered Sharron, who had been lying inches from the doorway. CPR was attempted by paramedics, but she was pronounced dead at 2.12am.
Ian Singleton recorded a narrative verdict of death by smoke inhalation.