A BUSINESSMAN had been drinking heavily when he died in a house fire caused by a cigarette.

An inquest into the death of David Herricks, aged 52, revealed the part-owner of taxi firm Magnum Whiteline, was found dead at his home in Dumers Lane in the early hours of June 1 after a fire late at night filled the building with smoke.

Mr Herricks was found by firefighters and was pronounced dead shortly after 1am.

Katherine Moriarty, an investigator for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue, said she thought it was likely that a cigarette had come in contact with dust sheets and caused a slow burning fire which had created more toxic fumes.

Toxicology reports found that Mr Herrick was more than three times over the legal limit (80 mg in blood) with 261mg of alcohol and said the level of alcohol would have made him sleepy.

Firefighters forced their way into the house and found Mr Herricks after a neighbour raised the alarm after smoke was reported coming from a bedroom window of the house. At about 11.30pm the neighbour had heard an alarm but hadn't been able to tell where the sound was coming from.

Pathologist Dr Baiden Amissah ruled the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by a house fire and a high level of alcohol in Mr Herricks' body which would have made him unable to deal with the fire.

Mr Herricks' daughter Kirsty Wild told an inquest in Heywood, that her dad lived in Irlam as a child, before the family moved to Bury. After leaving school he did a variety of jobs including labourer and working in a night club in Bury.

After moving to Prestwich, he worked for a taxi business putting in long hours seven days a week. He eventually bought into the business.

Kirsty said her dad was well liked, not just by customers but also by cab drivers who liked and respected him for helping them out in the past.

However, a series of difficulties in his personal life had led to a variety of problems where at times he had drunk alcohol to excess.

Ms Wild told the inquest that her dad had recently moved to the house and had been having alterations and decoration carried out to enable a member of the family to move in with him, with many of the furnishings covered by dust sheets while the works were in progress.

Det Insp Andrew Naismith, who carried out an investigation in conjunction with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue and the Coroner's Office, said there was a large amount of smoke damage. He said the last time Mr Herricks was seen alive was by a taxi driver who dropped him off at his house earlier that evening.

The assistant Bury coroner Michael Salt said: "I have to agree with the pathologist who said in his opinion Mr Herrick died of carbon monoxide poisoning, which was caused by the fire and not helped by the intoxicating effects of the alcohol. His death was accidental."

Mr Herrick's family paid tribute to him. In a statement they said: "The past five months without Dave have been so very hard. There hasn’t been a day, even an hour, where he has been far from any of our thoughts. We miss him so much and this Christmas will be hard as will many to come.

"We would like to thank Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue, specifically Red Watch, for the efforts they made.  They put themselves in harm's way to try and save his life. Sadly this was not to be, but the selfless bravery they showed was appreciated by his family and friends.

"Thank you also to Greater Manchester Police and HM Coroners Office for trying to help us make some sense of what happened to Dave.  He was a much loved Son, Father, Grandfather and brother and his death has left a massive void in our family. "The huge number of people from every walk of life, of all faiths and none at his funeral was a testament to his infectious and loveable personality. Rest in Peace Dave."