AN INQUEST into the death of a North Yorkshire worker who suffered serious burns from a fireball has ruled his death an accident.

Michael Jennings was working as a mechanical fitter for Yorkshire Water in July 2015 when he attempted to remove bolts from a pipe in a dry well in Oxton Lane, Tadcaster.

A four-day inquest heard this week Mr Jennings used an angle grinder to try to remove the bolts, as they were too corroded to loosen with spanners, and became engulfed in flames when sparks from the grinder ignited an oxygen-rich environment, setting fire to his clothing.

Mr Jennings, 55, from Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, was pulled to safety, but suffered 86 per cent burns in the incident, and died from his injuries in Pinderfields Hospital two days later.

Today, a jury took just over two hours to return their verdict and ruled his death was accidental, but said warning signs had been missed prior to the accident.

In a statement read to the coroner, the jury said: “Use of hot works was not authorised. The people involved in issuing a permit to work in July 2015 were not aware of the potential for oxygen enrichment in the dry well prior to July 2015.

“A near-miss report had been issued in September 2014 which may have alerted the people involved in planning the work in July (2015), to the potential for oxygen enrichment in the atmosphere.”

Mr Jennings had worked for Yorkshire Water for about eight years prior to his death, and friends and colleagues set up an online fundraising page in his memory following the fatal accident which raised more than £2,200 for Pinderfields Hospital.

Coroner Rob Turnbull offered Mr Jennings’ family his condolences, but said he had decided not to issue a Regulation 28, or Preventing Future Deaths Report, to Yorkshire Water.

He said he was satisfied that significant and appropriate steps had been taken since the fatal accident to improve health and safety standards and try to prevent similar incidents happening in future.

After the inquest, Richard Flint, Yorkshire Water’s chief executive, said: “Our thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of Mick Jennings at this time. Mick was a popular colleague and his tragic death has had a profound impact on everyone at Yorkshire Water.

“Since the accident we have worked closely with North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Health & Safety Executive and the coroner to support their investigations and to ensure that any lessons from the accident are learnt.”

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive was launched following Mr Jennings’ death, and is still underway.