Man died after smoking in bed in garage surrounded by flammable materials

Steven Ian Cameron.
Steven Ian Cameron. Photo credit: Supplied

Sleeping in a garage, surrounded by flammable materials, and smoking in bed all led to a Christchurch man's death, according to the Coroner.

Steven Ian Cameron, 50, suffered 78 percent burns to his body when his garage was engulfed by flames in April 2017.

He died 15 days later at Middlemore Hospital from complications related to the burns.

In a report released on Friday, Coroner David Robinson had a warning for people about the dangers of sleeping in garages.

While Cameron had a room in the Christchurch flat, he also kept a bed in the garage where he'd frequently sleep. According to the Coroner's report, the landlord didn't know the garage was being used for accommodation.

Cameron often worked on cars and motorbikes in the garage. As well as the bed, the garage stored flammable materials including oils, gunpowder, paint and an LPG cylinder.

There was only one exit - a large garage tilt-a-door at the front.

It's "highly probable" Cameron was smoking cannabis either on or in the bed when the fire started, an investigation found.

It quickly escalated, fueled by nearby flammable products.

Cameron ran through a "wall of fire" to reach the only exit, also described by a witness as "a giant jet of flames".

His flatmates raced to help him, including dousing him in cold water and battling the fire with a hose.

But as the fire raged, the combustible products began to explode and they were forced to withdraw.

In his report, Coroner Robinson warned that the danger of smoking in bed was "a well-known fire risk".

"Matters were no doubt compounded by the absence of a working smoke alarm."

Having the bed in the garage was also dangerous, according to the Coroner. It may have absorbed some of the flammable substances, which would have accelerated the speed of the fire.

The Coroner also found it was unlikely delays in calling an ambulance impacted Cameron's death.

Cameron was urgently hosed down with cold water before being taken to a friend's place, where they continued hosing him down in a shower before heading outdoors. An ambulance was later called and he was taken to Christchurch Hospital.

Despite the delay, the Coroner said Cameron had received "correct first aid" at the time and evidence from a doctor found it "did not contribute significantly to his death... 15 days after his initial injury".

"The only thing said by Mr Cameron is this period was, 'Where is Hooch?' - a reference to his much-loved dog," the Coroner said.

Hooch's body was later found inside the charred wreckage of the garage.