Toxic generator fumes caused couple’s deaths

Ken and Dorothy Swallow
Ken and Dorothy Swallow

Toxic carbon monoxide released into a Hurstpierpoint couple’s home by a petrol generator resulted in their deaths, an inquest has heard.

Kenneth Swallow, 70, and wife Dorothy, 71, of Malthouse Lane, both retired, passed away in their own home as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning on Boxing Day of last year.

Ken and Dorothy Swallow on their 50th wedding anniversary ENGSUS00120140701140714

Ken and Dorothy Swallow on their 50th wedding anniversary ENGSUS00120140701140714

The inquest, held in Horsham on Tuesday (April 29), was told the couple’s property was left without power following a bout of storms and flooding in late December.

On Christmas Day, one of the couple’s daughters visited them at about 3pm.

She brought a petrol generator so Mr and Mrs Swallow could keep their fridge running, and a portable barbecue so they could make tea.

Mrs Swallow contacted another family member between 12am and 12.30am on Boxing Day to let them know they were going to bed and had switched their electrics off.

At 12pm, another daughter, Daryl, entered the property using her own key, and smelled gas inside the house.

Mr Swallow was found in the bathroom, and Mrs Swallow in bed.

A post mortem revealed the cause of death for both Mr and Mrs Swallow to be carbon monoxide toxicity, with Mr Swallow also suffering from a heart disease.

Assistant coroner Joe Turner said there was no means to allow the generator to vent carbon monoxide fumes out of the house.

He said: “They were both independent, active older people able to care for themselves.

“A generator was procured to a system to keep their food frozen and cold over the Christmas period and was installed in their house, but neither they nor anyone else thought it venting into that space would lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Because of the time of year and circumstances it is probably right to call it a tragic event.”

He concluded both deaths were accidental.

Mr Swallow, a retired financial director, was well known in Mid Sussex football.

A player at Burgess Hill Town in the 1970s, Mr Swallow went on to manage the Hillians, Ansty Rangers and Haywards Heath Town.

His shock death rocked the local football community.

He featured in Ken Carter’s County League winning team at Burgess Hill in 1976.

Mr Carter said: “You couldn’t wish to meet two nicer people than him and his wife Dorothy. It was devastating news.

“In my first season we won the County League Cup as well as the Division 2 Cup and the following season won Division 2. We then won Division 1 in our first season back (1975-76).

“Ken was a very important member of that team. He was a centre back or left back and was a player you could always rely on to give 100 per cent - a terrific guy to have in your team.”

Richard Strange, current general manager of Burgess Hill, was a youngster when Ken arrived at the club in 1973.

He said: “Ken was just a very nice guy who had the knack of making you feel good.

“He was so good with people that I could never imagine him doing anything other than working closely with others.

“Being so charismatic, players wanted to play for him and outside football he and his wife were very lovely people.”

The couple had three children and six grandchildren.