Neighbours tried to rescue father and son in Lowestoft house fire

Scene of the Oulton house fire in which Leonard Parnell died.

Scene of the Oulton house fire in which Leonard Parnell died. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Neighbours in a quiet village street desperately tried to rescue a father and son as a fire tore through their home, an inquest has heard.

Leonard Parnell, 81, of Oulton, near Lowestoft – known to his friends as Lenny – died following the house fire at his home in Oulton Road North on April 19, last year.

Son Trevor, 53, who lived with him and had suffered health issues after being hit by a lorry when he was 11, was injured in the blaze.

The inquest at Lowestoft Coroner's Court yesterday were told the retired factory worker's cause of death was inhalation of fumes.

Assistant coroner for Suffolk, Yvonne Blake, read out witness statements from neighbours and Mr Parnell's daughter after the tragic events of last year, which had shocked the close-knit community and those living on the secluded street.


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Michael Barber had known both men for 30 years, describing them as 'perfect neighbours'.

After spotting black smoke billowing past his window, he realised the Parnells' house was on fire. After calling the emergency services, Ms Blake said: 'He went back outside and saw neighbours Paul and Ronald were trying to get into the house to help Lenny and Trevor out.'

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Ronald Summons, who has lived in the street for 60 years, had known the family for many years. On the day of the fire, he saw a settee was alight and he called to Lenny to get out, as Trevor called the fire brigade. Ms Blake said 'there was a plume of black smoke' taking over the front room.

Paul Blyth put wet towels over his head as he tried to get into the house.

Ms Blake said: 'He kicked the door open but was thrown back by the intensity of the black smoke. So he went into the rear garden to gain entry, where he saw thick black smoke billowing out and a very agitated Trevor.'

Subsequent fire investigations said a lamp catching fire in the front room was a possible cause. There was no third party involvement and neither occupant smoked.

In conclusion, Ms Blake said: 'Mr Parnell died as a result of a fire in his house, neighbours attempted to get him out, but were unsuccessful. That is the conclusion.

'My condolences go to the family – it's an absolutely horrid thing to have happened. It is one of these tragic things where fire starts for all sorts of reasons.'

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