Newlywed dies on nightwatch for yobs vandalising his coalyard


A newlywed coal merchant was killed by toxic fumes coming from a faulty boiler while guarding his business from drug-taking yobs.

Tragic Craig Otterwell, 31, feared that a gang of youths taking drugs at the gates of his coal yard would break in overnight and had reported them to police.

But he was overwhelmed by fumes and died of carbon monoxide poisoning as he staged a night-time vigil in the workshop.

Rachel Otterwell, 28 – Craig’s wife of just two weeks – discovered his body the following morning.

An inquest into Craig’s death in Trowbridge, Wilts., heard he had tied the knot with Rachel, his partner of 11 years, on September 26 last year.

The couple enjoyed a short honeymoon in Torquay, Devon, before moving into a new home in Staverton, Wilts., to begin married life together.

But the family business, L H Arlett and Son in Holt., Wilts., had been plagued by fly-tippers dumping waste at night and drug users loitering at the gates.

Craig reported the problems to police on October 10 last year but decided to keep watch on the business by staying overnight in the workshop.

However, a faulty boiler pumped out carbon monoxide into the room, which had no ventilation, and Craig was overwhelmed by the fumes.

Further investigation revealed that four flueways at the back of the coal-powered boiler had become blocked with ash – trapping the exhaust fumes.

The following day his uncle Michael arrived at the depot and was unable to get into the locked workshop but could hear a TV inside.

He alerted Rachel and when she arrived they forced their way in to find Craig’s body on the floor on the morning of October 11 last year.

Rachel told the inquest: ”We used to find small clear sealed bags, energy drink cans and sweet wrappers outside the gates.

”He was really chuffed that the police were going to investigate the problem.  He wanted to get the numbers of their vehicles so he stayed overnight.

”I tried to call him a number of times that evening but couldn’t get hold of him.  When we found him I could smell the fumes in my throat immediately.”

Craig’s uncle Michael added: ”We had been having problems with youths congregating outside our main gate and leaving rubbish there.

”Craig informed the police about this but said he was going to stay overnight to catch them at it.

”Craig often stayed overnight.  He used to say how he wanted to buy a new boiler but that it would be too expensive.”

Craig was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics and a post-mortem examination revealed he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

He inherited the family business from his father Peter in 2006. It was opened in 1959 by his stepfather Morris Arlett.

Assistant Deputy Coroner Claire Balysz recorded a verdict of accidental death at an inquest into Craig’s death in Trowbridge, Wilts.

She said: ”We heard evidence about how Craig locked the doors from the inside and was always welding bits onto the boiler because a new one was too expensive.

”We heard the fan unit wasn’t the correct one for the boiler and that it hadn’t been cleaned as recommended and the four flueways were completely blocked.

”All of the evidence I have heard today is that Craig Otterwell didn’t maintain his boiler correctly and sadly the unwanted consequence of this was the build up of carbon monoxide in the room.”

Verdict: Accidental death


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