Death of Thomas Hill from carbon monoxide: A fatal accident investigation is launched into the death of a student in 2015
The death of a teenager from carbon monoxide poisoning at the holiday home of a Scottish aristocrat more than six years ago is to be investigated as part of a fatal accident investigation.
Thomas Hill, 18, was found unconscious at Glenmark Cottage, near Tarfside, Angus, in October 2015.
Despite attempts to save the teenager, he was pronounced dead in an ambulance en route to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
At the time of his death, the University of Stirling freshman, from Hampshire, was on holiday at the remote cottage with his partner Charlotte Beard and her family.
An autopsy confirmed that the teenager, who ran an animal shelter with his girlfriend, died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Faulty gas heaters were later discovered at the cottage, which at the time belonged to the Earl of Dalhousie and his heir Lord Ramsay.
At Dundee Sheriff Court last year, Burghill Farms, Lord Ramsay’s Dalhousie-based company, and Piers Le Cheminant, who sublet the cottage, admitted putting holidaymakers at risk of death.
They both admitted that between March 2008 and October 2015 they failed to ensure gas heaters were kept in a safe condition to prevent any risk of injury to holidaymakers.
Burghill Farms was fined £120,000 and Le Cheminant, 76, was fined £2,000 at Dundee Sheriff Court.
Now an inquest into a fatal crash – the equivalent of an inquest in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – will take place at Forfar Sheriff Court.
Thomas Hill (pictured), 18, was found unconscious at Glenmark Cottage, near Tarfside, Angus, where faulty gas heaters were found
The university student was on vacation at the remote cabin (pictured) with his partner Charlotte Beard and his family at the time of his death in October 2018
The cottage was then owned by the Earl of Dalhousie and his heir Lord Ramsay (pictured), who are part of the historic Ramsay clan whose roots date back to 1140AD.
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain ordered the inquest after ruling that the circumstances of the teenager’s death had caused ‘serious public concern’ and that an investigation was in the ‘public interest’.
During the criminal proceedings, it emerged that radiators were used in rooms that were too small and not sufficiently ventilated.
An investigation revealed that there had been cracks in the heater and that it was producing carbon monoxide beyond safe levels.
The cottage was then owned by the Earl of Dalhousie and his heir Lord Ramsay, part of the historic Ramsay clan whose roots date back to 1140 AD.
Retired private school teacher Le Cheminant, a longtime user of the chalet since 2008, had sublet the property during the tragic breakup.
Speaking after the trial, the teenager’s father, Jerry, said: ‘Tom was a really special young man and it seems to us that what killed him was really a series of failures.
“I don’t think anyone comes out of this process with great credit. It just seems like everyone is trying to deflect blame.
His girlfriend Charlotte added: “I lost my love, my baby and the future I planned with Tom.”
Ending Burghill Farms and Le Cheminant, Sheriff Gillian Wade said: ‘The bathroom heater should never have been there at all.
Speaking after last year’s trial, Thomas’ girlfriend Charlotte added: ‘I lost my love, my baby and the future I had planned with Tom.
A preliminary hearing into Thomas’ death will take place in March with the full inquest expected to begin later in the year
“For seven and a half years, people using the chalet were at risk.”
In a statement released after the case, Burghill Farms partner Simon Ramsay said: ‘We have previously offered our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Thomas Hill and do so again.
“After discussion with the family, a small grove of trees has been planted near the cottage and in response to a request from the family, donations have been made to appropriate charities.”
Lord Ramsay is the son and heir of Scottish landowner, the 17th Earl of Dalhousie, James Ramsay.
A preliminary hearing for the inquest into the fatal accident will take place in March and the full investigation is expected to begin later in the year.
What is carbon monoxide poisoning and what are the symptoms?
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs in humans when a person breathes carbon monoxide in excessive levels.
It is a natural gas, consisting of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom, which is even produced in the human body at very low levels.
However, it is produced at much higher levels by the incomplete combustion of organic matter – which happens when something burns in an area where there isn’t enough oxygen.
This can include poorly maintained and poorly ventilated boilers or car exhausts.
Open fires, such as fireplaces in small, confined, poorly ventilated spaces or with clogged chimneys, can also create a hazard.
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs in humans when a person breathes carbon monoxide in excessive levels. Measures such as the presence of a carbon monoxide detector or alarm (Photo: Library image) and proper ventilation and maintenance of boilers, as well as keeping gases clean and in good condition vehicle exhaust can all reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
At high levels, carbon monoxide can be deadly to humans because it binds to hemoglobin in blood cells, preventing them from transporting oxygen to vital organs.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often described as “flu-like” and typically include headache, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
Large exposures can cause convulsions and even death.
Every year around 60 deaths are due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales.
Measures such as having a carbon monoxide detector or alarm, proper boiler ventilation and maintenance, and keeping vehicle exhaust clean and in good condition can all reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.