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Accidental death verdict after Exeter mother fell into hot bath

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 19, 2014

Elizabeth Earland

Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded a verdict of accidental death

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A mother was scalded to death after falling into a piping hot bath when she suffered an epileptic fit, an Exeter inquest heard.

Tax investigator Lynn Harper toppled into the bath and tests showed the water had a temperature of 42 degrees C and a radiator in the bathroom was 52 degrees Celsius and ‘too hot to touch’.

A coroner ruled that 57-year-old Mrs Harper would have survived the fit but died after falling into the ‘scalding hot bath’.

A post mortem indicated that the HM Revenue and Customs investigator died from an epileptic seizure and severe scalding.

Her husband Stephen said they had been married for 37 years and Lyn had suffered from epilepsy since her mid 20s but always had a warning they were coming.

But he said in a statement to the Exeter inquest:”If she had four seizures in a year then that was a bad one.”

He said he worked away and Lynn swore their daughter to secrecy not to tell him if she had had any fits even though they were well controlled with her medication.

On the Sunday she died last February she was suffering with flu’ like symptoms and had got up late telling her husband she had been ill in bed – she had had a seizure.

The couple watched a film and Lynn said she was going back to bed while her husband went out to do some chores. But when he returned the first time at 4pm he assumed she was sleeping and did not disturb her.

He went to a friend’s house to watch a football match on TV and came back to their home in Wellington Road, Exeter, and saw the bathroom light was on.

He said: ”I found her face down in the bath.”

He managed to get her out of the bath and tried to revive her and told the coroner it appeared she had suffered another seizure.

Paramedics arrived but said ‘it was too late’ and she was dead.

PC David Holland said: "I went to the bathroom. It was a really sticky heat in the room, hot and humid.”

Mr Harper said the combination boiler in the house produced hotter water when less water was being used.

Scenes of crime investigator Angus Little tested the temperature of the bath and found it was 42 degrees C and the radiator was 52 degrees C and ‘too hot to touch’.

He said: ”There was a large amount of skin damage.”

The Greater Devon coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded an accidental death verdict.

She said Mrs Harper was suffering with flu like symptoms, had an epileptic fit after omitting to take her medication and ‘fell into a scalding hot bath’ on that Sunday afternoon.

“She had an epileptic fit but I am not satisfied she would have died from that.”

Verdict: Accident

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