A RETIRED mum-of-three who was injured when her gown caught fire on an electric heater died after contracting pneumonia at hospital.

Mary Elizabeth Coates, who was known as May, died aged 76 after contracting the illness while recovering from a tragic accident at her Winsford home, Warrington Coroner's Court heard on Wednesday.

The Scottish-born former clerical worker had been helped into the garage at 4pm on December 1, 2019, by Richard Coates, her husband of 50 years.

He had made the area as comfortable as possible for his wife, who struggled with mobility issues, to sit and smoke regularly in the garage.

In a statement, Richard told the inquest: “Mary would go in the garage every day and have a cigarette. I had fitted the garage with a smoke alarm, she had a chair to sit on and a drinks shelf, a telephone and a heater.

“I always wanted to make sure she was comfortable and warm whenever she would go off into the garage for a cigarette, which is why I put a heater in there for her and a comfortable chair.

“Mary would always sit in her chair with the heater quite close to keep her warm.”

Richard told the inquest that he heard the smoke alarm from the garage, and he found her with her dressing gown on fire.

He added: “My instant reaction was to put the fire out, so I went over to Mary to put the fire out with my hands, by beating the fire out.

“I suffered burns and blisters to both of my hands. I didn’t feel any pain at the time because I was in shock.”

After calling 999, he was advised to pour water over Mary to cool her down, before putting a fleece over her to keep her warm.

Police, firefighters and paramedics all arrived on the scene in Meadow Close, and she was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital for treatment.

Det Sgt Simon Mills, from Cheshire Police, spoke to May at Wythenshawe Hospital on the night of the incident.

She gave the account of her nylon dressing gown going ‘up in flames’ after brushing against the electric heater and how her husband helped her.

He said: “It was clear to me from how she answered the questions that this had simply been a tragic accident in her garage.

“Richard was duly upset and worried about the condition of his wife.”

Fire officer Duncan Palin, who visited the garage, told the inquest that the portable halogen heater was kept within one metre of May’s gown – and that this was the ‘most probably source of ignition’.

He added that the heater had no electrical fault and was relatively new, while its instruction manual advised that the unit should be kept further away from materials like May’s nylon gown.

Nadeem Khwaja, a consultant at Wythenshawe Hospital, told the inquest that May had suffered from 25 per cent total body surface burns that were ‘quite severe in nature’.

She had an operation to remove the wounds two days later, and her body was beginning to heal from the burns.

However, Mr Khwaja explained to May that her injuries could affect her other bodily functions, and she had to be ventilated on an intensive care unit where she developed pneumonia.

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Her condition was confirmed following an X-ray on December 6 and she was given antibiotics, but she became ‘progressively weak’.

On December 13 her family was told that further treatment would not be appropriate, and she died later that day.

Alan Moore, senior coroner for Cheshire, told the inquest that May’s own evidence to police was ‘most important’ before ruling that her death had been caused by an ‘entirely accidental incident’.

He added: “Obviously, as a direct result of that fire, Mrs Coates sustained the burn injuries and then she was in hospital for some time before she died.

“She developed that pneumonia probably as a result of being immobile in hospital for that period of time, suffering from those burn injuries.”