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6 September 2012, 11:59
A father has pleaded to campers to be aware of the dangers of using disposable BBQs after his son died of carbon monoxide poisoning after cooking burgers in his camper van..
An inquest into the death of Nicholas Holmes heard that the 22-year-old had gone for a short break on his own to the Hollands Wood campsite at Brockenhurst in the New Forest, Hampshire, at the end of May.
His friends alerted police after they had not heard from him for a couple of days. A police officer found his body on June 1 sitting in the front of his white Peugeot Partner van, his head resting on a pillow with his smartphone and headphones on the dashboard in front of him along with a bottle of lager and some Jehovah Witness leaflets.
Detective Sergeant Andy Hedley, of Hampshire Police, said that a used disposable BBQ was found in the rear of the closed van along with open packets of burgers and buns, of which two of each had been eaten.
He said: "The scene would suggest he had cooked an evening meal with two burgers and baps. It would then appear he closed the rear doors and allowed the BBQ to burn out. He then sat in the front of the van, taking a pillow with him, he was sat in a relaxed position.''
Pathologist Dr Norman Carr said that a post-mortem examination revealed that the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. Recording a verdict of accidental death, Deputy Coroner for Southampton and the New Forest Gordon Denson said: "I am satisfied that Nicholas' death was an unforeseen and tragic accident in that he was unaware of the dangers of a lighted BBQ in a confined space which produces a situation where carbon monoxide is present.
"I am aware there are warnings on packets of BBQs, it is clear these were overlooked. I make a plea that members of the public take careful note of the printed warnings so these events are not repeated.''
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Holmes' father Philip paid tribute to his son and appealed to people to take heed of the coroner's warning. The 52-year-old, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, said:
"He was a sensitive, bright, intelligent young man who we are going to miss very much. He died as a result of a tragic accident. It seems the public are all too unaware of the dangers of these disposable BBQs. They spew out carbon monoxide for 12 hours after they have been used and there have been numerous cases of people losing their lives or nearly losing their lives. It seems to me the public needs to be more aware and there are awareness campaigns going on which we support to prevent more needless loss of life."
He said that his son, who lived in Waterlooville, Hampshire, had just started his own window-cleaning round and added that he was a keen chess and video games player. He said: "He was a sensitive and intelligent man. Two hundred and fifty people came to his funeral, he was popular, it's just sad none of them were around at the moment he needed a bit of help, but that is because he chose to be on his own for a while."
His mother, Elisabeth Holmes, added: "He was the best son in the world along with my other son."
Earlier this year, six-year-old Isabelle Harris, from Gosport, Hampshire, died of carbon-monoxide poisoning after her parents brought a disposable BBQ into their tent to keep warm during a camping trip also in the New Forest.