A coroner has recommended that the Government review its safety messages around gas appliances in caravans, after a man died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty refrigerator.

Ian Phillip Joyce, 81, died on December 30 or 31, 2010, in the caravan he and his wife spent most summer weekends in at Lake Alexandrina camping ground in Canterbury.

On the morning of December 31 neighbours noticed that the couple had not been seen in or near their caravan.

A neighbour decided to check if anyone was inside and unzipped the awning. Inside it was dark and the curtains were closed. Mr Joyce was lying on the floor between two single beds, curled up in a foetal position with a blanket over him. He was clearly dead. His wife was found on the bed gasping for breath.


Christchurch coroner Richard McElrea found Mr Joyce died as a result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

The key contributor to Mr Joyce's death was a faulty refrigerator which, when tested, gave off abnormally high levels of carbon monoxide.

It was determined that this was likely due to a lack of maintenance rather than a design fault.

A portable LPG heater and a gas cooker may also have contributed to the levels of carbon monoxide in the confined space, Coroner McElrea said.

He made a recommendation to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Energy Safety team that it reviews the safety messages on its website, with particular reference to the regular maintenance of gas appliances in confined spaces like caravans.

He said there were clear safety messages arising from Mr Joyce's death relating to the need for proper ventilation, the importance of regular maintenance of equipment such as refrigerators and cookers, and the desirability of installing carbon monoxide sensors.