A RESCUER has described his frantic efforts to save a pensioner from his burning home.
Window cleaner Neil Fullerton made repeated efforts to haul David Carpenter from his smoke-filled house in Burghead.
However, Mr Fullerton, from Forres, was choking on the heavy fumes and was unable to pull the 65-year-old out.
Moments later, firefighters arrived at the scene of the blaze last Friday morning in Forteath Street. They were able to pull Mr Carpenter free but he was confirmed dead at the scene.
Mr Fullerton and a near neighbour David King had gone to the rescue after seeing smoke coming from the home where Mr Carpenter lived alone.
A joint investigation by fire and police chiefs has ruled out foul play, but was unable to establish the precise cause of the fire.
Mr Fullerton entered the house three times after breaking a kitchen window and climbing in.
Both he and Mr King had tried to kick in the front door without any luck.
“I got a boulder and broke the glass of the back door. I then climbed in but there was really thick smoke,” said Mr Fullerton.
“I put my hat over my face and it was only the third time when I went in that I could see David lying in the living room.
“I found him in the corner behind the TV. I tried to pull him out but I had to take off a towel, which I had picked up to cover my face, to do that and the smoke was thick. There was still a fire going in the middle of the room.”
Mr Fullerton added: “I had an idea that he was dead but I wanted to go in again to try and pull him out. I was really upset. I just did my best.”
He was persuaded not to re-enter the house by other residents who realised it was too dangerous.
Mr Fullerton had moments earlier injured his leg after falling through a floorboard that had been damaged by fire and he also had to be given oxygen by firefighters.
He had known Mr Carpenter for the last year. “He was quite jovial and a clever guy. I enjoyed his company and will miss him.
“He used to be a sound engineer at the BBC. We would talk about hi-fi equipment and speakers. He was a really nice person.”
Mr King had been out walking his girlfriend Liz Davidson’s dog earlier, and had not noticed anything as he left her house across the road. However, when he returned to the street, Mr Fullerton had just arrived to clean the windows.
“We noticed smoke coming out of the wee vents in the front windows. We tried to kick in the front door but that wouldn’t budge,” said Mr King.
After gaining entry to the house, Mr Fullerton asked Mr King to alert the emergency services.
“There was smoke everywhere but Neil kept going back in. You could see nothing, it was absolutely black,” he added.
The police later told them that Mr Carpenter may have been dead for some time before they spotted the fire.
“It is sad really. Nobody deserves to go like that. He used to pop over to my girlfriend’s house for a chat and a cup of tea. She would do his washing.
“He was an intelligent guy but a bit eccentric. He always had lots of papers and carrier bags in the house and with the coal fire it was an accident waiting to happen.”
Chief Inspector Willie Findlay from Grampian Police said: “The fire was contained within the house by the fire service and extinguished fairly quickly without the need to evacuate other residents.”
Stuart Gibson, landlord of the Station Hotel, where Mr Carpenter was a regular, said: “He was a pleasant chap. He used to work for the BBC in London and was also a monk at one time.
“He was in the village about four years ago but lived in his car at that time in the harbour before he moved on to Hopeman Harbour.
“He disappeared for a couple of years and then suddenly appeared again about a year ago and said he had a house in Forteath Street.”
Mr Gibson said he had not kept great health of late and he had to call an ambulance a couple of times after he fell in the street.
Others in the village had to help him get home on several occasions.
“It is not a surprise this has happened. He was very dottled lately,” he added.
Another resident, who didn’t want to be named, said: “He was friendly enough but led a pretty solitary life. He was a poor soul.”