A PENSIONER died after her face was engulfed in flames - because she insisted on smoking while wearing an oxygen mask, an inquest heard.

Margaret Woodward, 77, suffered severe burns to her face, lips, tongue and neck after the accident at her home in Reeth, near Richmond, on November 20 last year.

The inquest at Northallerton’s Evolution Centre today heard that Mrs Woodward suffered from chronic obstructive respiratory disease and used an oxygen tank to help her breathe.

Loading article content

But having been a long-term smoker she had been known to continue to smoke while using the mask.

Although commonly used to treat diseases that impair the body’s ability to take up oxygen, when highly concentrated oxygen is exposed to a spark it can cause an explosion or fire.

Community warden Elizabeth Lucas said: “At around 11.10am Mrs Woodward pressed her emergency button but I couldn’t work out what she was saying, other than the word oxygen.

“I found her sat on her bed with burns to her face, lips, tongue, left shoulder and hand.

“She said it was her fault and the oxygen had caused the fire when she had been smoking.”

After being airlifted to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, Mrs Woodward suffered multiple cardiac arrests due to a lack of oxygen in her blood, the inquest was told.

Sister Susan Spence, a respiratory outreach nurse, said: “I first visited Mrs Woodward in January last year and I was concerned she was continuing to smoke.

“I was told she had been found smoking while wearing the mask, so I expressed the dangers to her and told her under no circumstances should she smoke while wearing it.”

Coroner Robert Turnbull said Mrs Woodward died from respiratory tract burns.

He said: “Attempts to save Mrs Woodward were unsuccessful and she died in hospital as a consequence of burns after smoking while using oxygen. It was the result of an accident.”

Mrs Woodward, of Reeth and formerly of Gunnerside, was a dearly loved wife of the late Charles, mum of Gary and Susan, a grandmother and great-grandmother.