A 30-minute delay could have contributed to a man dying in a fire, an inquest heard this week.

Richard Owen, 58, sadly died after a fire broke out in his room at Round Coppice Farm – a multi-occupancy home for people with mental health illnesses in Denham Road, Iver – in the early hours of the morning of April 10, 2019.

Beaconsfield Coroner’s Court was told a support worker, who had just started with the company which runs the home for people with low to moderate mental health issues, went to and from his office to the fire panel for almost half an hour before going to check on Mr Owen’s room, where the fire was then found to have started.

Mr Owen was diagnosed with psychotic schizophrenia a long time ago and had believed he was locked in the room, despite having a key to get into the room and being able to open it from the inside due to the paddle lock fitted internally, the court heard.

The support worker, Jack Losengeli, told police in a statement in 2019 he had only worked for a company for a “couple of days”, with the inquest told it was his first shift.

Mr Losengeli’s duties included looking after and helping residents with things like making phone calls and getting soap for their shower rooms.

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He started his shift between 8pm and 8.30pm, saying Mr Owen came downstairs soon after to talk about his laundry. Another member of staff helped him put his clothes into the laundry room and he went back up to his room.

In his statement, Mr Losengeli said Mr Owen seemed inebriated and was “walking in zig zags” as he went back up to his room.

Mr Losengeli said later that evening, he heard “banging” coming from Mr Owen’s room, which was on the top floor of the property, and also hip-hop music which was “playing loudly”.

He said: “I went up to his room and tried to open the door, but he had locked it.

“I then said, ‘if there is any damage, I will call the police’.”

Mr Losengeli then received a call from police asking where Mr Owen was and saying he had contacted them to say he was locked in his room. Mr Losengeli told the police Mr Owen had his key.

He said he heard the fire alarm go off “a while later” and went to check the panel.

Mr Losengeli said he then went up to Mr Owen’s room and tried to open the door with the second set of keys held for all residents’ rooms, but it would not open, with Mr Losengeli saying “it felt like the key was blocked”.

He started kicking Mr Owen’s door and on the third kick, managed to get it partially open and smelt smoke.

He rushed to get all the other residents out of their rooms and outside while he called emergency services, he said in his statement.

When firefighters arrived, he told them all the residents were out “except for the one whose room the fire started in”.

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Sadly Mr Owen died in the bathroom of his room while trying to escape the fire.

CCTV footage reviewed by Thames Valley Police and Bucks Fire and Rescue found there was a 31-minute delay in Mr Losengeli hearing the fire alarm and going up to Mr Owen’s room to check on him and calling emergency services.

The court heard he went back and forth from his office to the fire panel, at times “looking agitated”.

A postmortem report said an external examination showed heat damage to Mr Owen’s body but there was no evidence of direct flame damage as his eyebrows, eyelashes and hair had not been singed off. Soot was also found in his airways.

Toxicology found 80 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, suggesting Mr Owen was more than twice the legal drink drive limit.

Mr Owen was formally identified by Rahul Gopal, a manager at the home, where Mr Owen had lived for around 18 months.

Commander Baxter, of Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue, told the court their inspection found the fire could have started in the middle of the room and was “very severe”, having destroyed Mr Owen’s mattresses and damaged an armchair.

He also said the cause of the fire could not be determined.

The medical cause of death was recorded as “effects of fire” adding: “It was clear he had been alive when the fire had started, and he succumbed to the effects of it.”

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Buckinghamshire Senior Coroner Crispin Butler recorded a narrative conclusion, saying on the balance of probabilities the 31-minute delay in checking on Mr Owen was a contributory factor in his death.

He added: “Although Richard died from the effects of the fire, the cause of the fire cannot be ascertained.

“There was a delay in reacting to the fire alarm activation and identifying a fire had started and contacting emergency services, which probably contributed to Richard’s death.

“By the time he was found he was unresponsive. He was found in the shower room in his room.”

Mr Butler added that while the incident “came in the context of his mental health issues”, there was no evidence to suggest Mr Owen intended to harm himself or take his own life, and that in fact, he was trying to save himself from the fire.