A CORONER has issued a safety warning over the domestic use of barbecues after a grandfather was engulfed in flames and died in an explosion at his home.

George Young was testing a gas barbecue in a shed in the garden of his Burnopfield property, near Stanley, when a gas leak is believed to have caused the blast.

The 68-year-old was killed in the explosion and suffered severe burns on June 10 which flattened two plastic sheds and tore though the windows and roof of his bungalow.

Dr Leslie Hamilton, assistant coroner for County Durham and Darlington, issued a safety warning at the inquest yesterday into Mr Young’s death.

“This was a tragic case of a man planning to have a family barbecue,” said Dr Hamilton. “He had to test the barbecue and that is a warning to any member of the public who has a barbecue that has not been used for a while - not to check it inside or in a shed.

“The gas would have been able to escape outside.”

The court at Crook Civic Centre heard a 999 call was made at 8.40pm on the night of the incident, reporting a building on fire in Oakfields.

When crews arrived at the scene they found Mr Young’s body and worked to extinguish the flames at the rear of the house, which he shared with his wife who was not in at the time.

An investigation by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service found one of the two sheds, closest to the bungalow, contained boxes while the one closer to the garden contained a petrol lawn mower, tools, barbecue and a Calor gas cylinder.

In his report, fire investigation officer Lee Asprey identified the barbecue cooker was turned to the on position, the gas regulator on a Calor gas cylinder was turned on and the igniter button was pressed.

He said the rubber tubing on the hose between the barbecue and gas cylinder had worn away.

As a result it is understood the gas had leaked from the hose, mixing with the air within the shed.

Dr Hamilton said the officer’s hypothesis was that when the igniter button was pressed it caused a “flash back” down the rubber hose, causing a blast which engulfed the interior in flames. In the fire investigator’s report, Mr Young’s son estimated the barbecue was at least ten years old and had originally been stored outside under a cover for seven years.

The court heard it was not known when the barbecue was last used but it had never been professionally maintained or serviced.

At the time of the incident neighbours recalled hearing a loud bang before the alarm was raised.

They told The Northern Echo Mr Young was retired but had also worked as a delivery driver and took his grandchildren to school.

Tony Meakin said: “He was always very affable. He worked very hard. He seemed to be in and out all day. We are all quite numb.”

His wife Ann Meakin said residents had been traumatised by the explosion.

Dr Hamilton recorded a conclusion of accidental death.