Boater poisoned by deadly petrol fumes

Samara moored on the Oxford Canal at Banbury
Samara moored on the Oxford Canal at Banbury

A Banbury boater died after accidently inhaling deadly carbon monoxide fumes from a petrol generator inadequately ventilated on board his canal barge, Oxford Coroner’s Court heard yesterday (Thursday).

Assistant coroner Nicholas Graham recorded a verdict of accidental death for Ian Mason, 62, who was found dead by paramedics on board his canal boat Samara moored at Banbury on January 2 this year.

The court heard at the time of his death Mr Mason, a retired packer from Woodford, Essex, was using a lap-top computer powered by a petrol generator stowed beneath wooden decks at the stern of his boat.

Neighbouring boater Christopher Wren notified the ambulance service after returning from a trip to Banbury and noticing Mr Mason sitting in the same position as some hours previously. Paramedics found Mr Mason dead in his chair with his beloved dog Milly also having died at his feet.

Neighbour Lesley MacKay reported she saw Mr Mason the previous day when he seemed ‘perfectly happy’ and ‘gave no cause for concern’.

Evidence from Mr Mason’s brother Shaun Mason indicated ‘Spike’ as he was known to many, had bought Samara five years previously and refitted it himself. He said the boat was ‘very much a work in progress’ .

A boat examination report prepared by David Fuller of Marine Consultancy stated there were ‘numerous examples’ of the boat not having been refitted to current standards and it was in a ‘poor state of repair’.

He stated possible causes of carbon monoxide poisoning were an LPG burner and a mixed fuel burner on board, but the cause of death was pinpointed to the petrol generator which investigating police officer Det Sgt Matthew Blake found switched on at the time of Mr Mason’s death. The generator was stored behind wooden doors leading into the cabin which were left open. Mr Fuller’s report stated such generators should be placed on the canal tow path when in use in order to be properly ventilated and highlighted ten fatalities linked to such generators in the UK over the past 25 years.

Mr Mason’s GP Dr Rajesh Gupta reported he had suffered from Type 1 diabetes for 30 years and though this was being effectively managed he had suffered from ‘periodic depression’ at having to inject insulin four times each day though this was not connected with his death. Evidence from Consultant Pathologist Elizabeth Soilleux stated she found fatal levels of carboxyhemoglobin in Mr Mason’s blood consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning.