“HE’S sorry and he didn’t mean to hurt anyone” – that was the message today from relatives of an elderly dementia sufferer who accidently sparked a 13th-floor flat blaze.
Edward Watson, 70, had to be rescued by firefighters after flames swept through his flat in Eglinton Tower, Monkwearmouth.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service later confirmed that a discarded cigarette had sparked the fire on August 3.
Mr Watson’s daughter Deborah Wilson has now spoken of how the family were left devastated by comments made about her father, who has dementia and has suffered three strokes, which affected his walking and speech.
The grandfather of two has suffered a series of falls, uses a walking frame and was being visited by carers three times a day as he was unable to look after himself.
Mrs Wilson said: “I struggled to get him extra care and was told that the Government wants people to stay in their homes for as long as possible, even when they don’t know what they are doing and can’t take care of themselves any more.
“My dad was eventually on a waiting list for extra care, but sadly he waited too long.
“He did not mean to hurt anybody, he just didn’t know what he was doing.
“He would be devastated if he knew the stress he had brought to other residents.”
Terrified neighbours called 999 after windows on the top floor of the tower blew out due to the intense heat.
Firefighters found Mr Watson lying on the floor of his bedroom.
It is thought he may have not extinguished his cigarette properly in the living room, then went to lie on his bed.
After being carried to safety, the former electrician was rushed by ambulance to a specialist unit in Hull, where he was put in a chamber to remove potentially-fatal carbon monoxide from his lungs.
He was then transferred to Sunderland Royal Hospital, where he is still being cared for.
The flat, where Mrs Wilson’s grandparents once lived, was gutted by smoke and flames.
Mrs Wilson, 47, was looking at sheltered accommodation for her father in nearby Albany Court when she heard news of the fire.
The mother-of-two said: “The flat has been in the family for 45 years.
“My nana and grandad were the first residents and the family spent many happy times there with wonderful memories and never brought any trouble to any residents.
“It is very sad that it has ended up in flames. Dementia is a very sad illness and to see my dad now is so sad.
“He actually remembers the fire and was very frightened.
“We would like to apologise to the other residents about the fire, but it could have been avoided.
“The Government needs to have a rethink about vulnerable people on their own.”
Mrs Wilson said the family had tried to get her father to give up smoking and praised firefighters who rescued him.
“The family would like to thank the firemen from the bottom of their hearts.
“They do an amazing job and they have to risk their lives in situations that should never happen.”
She added: “The people at Gentoo have been very helpful.
“It is not their fault he waited so long as they have to go by the rules that the Government set.
“When we saw him he was black from head to foot and covered in soot.
“When he was coughing, you could hear it on his chest.
“Because he is very poorly anyway, the doctors don’t know how it would affect him.”