John Ball death: Fire crews could not have saved alcoholic despite three calls to Islington flats

PUBLISHED: 15:12 26 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:38 26 August 2016

John Ball, pictured on January 31, on the balcony of the second floor flat in which he died

John Ball, pictured on January 31, on the balcony of the second floor flat in which he died


Firefighters called to a housing block three times could not have saved the alcoholic found dead in his soot-covered flat the next day, a coroner has ruled.

Susan and John BallSusan and John Ball

John Ball, 60, a former printer who had not worked for 30 years, was found slumped on his sofa on April 4 after dropping a roll-up cigarette at his feet sparking a slow, smouldering fire.

He had been drinking so much in his Canalside home that the amount of alcohol in his blood was somewhere between that causing coma and death.

Fire investigator Barry Kent told the inquest Mr Ball’s smoke alarm – which neighbours thought they heard – had broken during the fire and fallen onto the floor.

He said: “The whole place was completely covered in a film of soot.

John Ball was found dead in his flat in Canalside SquareJohn Ball was found dead in his flat in Canalside Square

“It was most likely careless disposal of a cigarette onto some clothing as a result of the alcohol and he could have fallen asleep.

“Had he fallen asleep naturally he would have woken and may well have escaped from the fire.”

The inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court today heard the brigade was called to a smell of smoke three times the previous morning – once at Canalside and twice at flats in Ann Street, which they realised on the second call was attached to Canalside.

On the first two visits adequate checks were carried out, including at Mr Ball’s flat, but they found no trace of a fire.

But the firefighters failed to check Canalside flats during the third callout. Mr Ball’s body was found by police and a locksmith who had been called to break into his flat after attempts to contact him about the smoke had failed.

In the weeks after his death, Mr Ball’s estranged sister Susan – who was at the inquest – questioned why he was not found sooner.

But deputy coroner Richard Brittain the first two visits had been carried out properly and even if the Canalside block had been checked on the third call, Mr Ball would already have been dead by that point.

He ruled the death accidental with alcohol and smoking as contributing factors.

He said: “This was clearly very unfortunate and tragic.”

The two watch managers have been put on personal development plans for 12 months.

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