Fatal house fire ruled an accident

04:57, Aug 08 2014

The death of an elderly lady following a Christchurch house fire last year has been ruled an accident by the coroner. 

Elaine Margaret Rapley, 80, died as a result of the fire which started in her bedroom in the early hours of November 27.

A neighbour saw smoke and called the Fire Service to the Highsted Rd flat. 

Son Alan Rapley said his mother had had a stroke about 18 months before her death and had fallen in her own home a number of times since. She also suffered from depression. 

She was due to attend a meeting at Princess Margaret Hospital to determine whether she needed to enter a care programme as a result of her health problems. 

While a neighbour said Rapley did not want to be moved to a rest home and said she wanted to die, coroner Christopher Devonport did not find enough evidence to prove the fire a suicide. 

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Alan Rapley said his mother had taken down the smoke alarms when he visited her in the days prior to her death.

While the alarms were found out of place by the Fire Service during the blaze, they were still in working condition. 

An investigation found the fire began in Rapley's bedroom near the bed.

How it happened could not be proven conclusively but she was known to smoke in the house, and a lighter, matches and cigarettes were found near the bed.

Rapley was found in the living room.

Devonport said her reaction to the fire may have been slowed by her stroke. 

Rapley died in hospital on December 11 due to effects of the fire, including burns and smoke inhalation.

The Press