Fire death followed Easy Rider memorial

A woman who had attended the second anniversary memorial for the sinking of the Easy Rider died when the caravan she lived in caught fire later that night, a coroner says.

Teresa Anne Thompson, 45, attended the memorial at Bluff on March 15 with family and friends and returned to her caravan on an Invercargill property about 3am the following day, a report by Coroner Christopher Devonport said.

Eight people died in the Easy Rider tragedy when the vessel was swamped by a huge wave just after midnight on March 15, 2012 while taking muttonbirders and crew members to the Titi Islands, near Stewart Island.

Cora Maere, who lived in the house next to Ms Thompson's caravan, told the coroner that on the night of the fire Ms Thompson and the group had had a fun time.

"We were all really happy, we were cracking up.

"Everything was awesome. We had an awesome night."

Just before 5am on March 16, a passerby noticed the caravan and the house were on fire and alerted the residents.

The house was evacuated of its 13 occupants safely but Ms Thompson was found dead in the caravan, the report said.

A post-mortem examination found cannabis and a high level of alcohol in her system.

An investigation into the blaze found that earlier that evening, Ms Thompson had taken some burning bedding or a cushion out of the caravan and put it on the lawn, the report said.

She had then returned to the caravan and fallen asleep.

Fire Service Fire Risk Management officer Paul Glanville told Coroner Devonport there were two scenarios for how the main fire was started, the report said.

The first was that in taking out the small burning items, some smouldering or combustible material could have dropped onto another flammable item on the floor and continued to slowly burn, unnoticed by Ms Thompson.

The second scenario was that some time after discarding the burning items and Ms Thompson returning to the caravan to sleep, a candle may have fallen on the floor and ignited something, Mr Glanville said.

"It appears from [Mr Glanville's] report that Ms Thompson was aware of an initial fire in the caravan and that she removed burning material from the caravan onto the lawn and returned to the caravan where the smell of smoke would not have been unexpected," Coroner Devonport said.

"I consider that the combined effects of alcohol and cannabis likely contributed to a sedative effect and, not being alerted by any smoke alarm, resulted in Ms Thompson dying from smoke inhalation."

- Rebecca Quilliam of APNZ

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