Robert Johnson died in car blast trying to rescue dog

Robert (Bob) Johnson with his daughter Gina
Image caption Robert Johnson, pictured with daughter Gina, died trying to save his pet Alsatian

A former paratrooper died in a car explosion in Essex while trying to save his pet dog, an inquest has heard.

Robert Johnson died of burns and fire fumes on 2 October last year at the Fairways Garden Centre in Rayleigh.

Mr Johnson, 63, who lived in a caravan in Hullbridge Rd, Rayleigh, was returning home when his car was involved in an accident.

An inquest in Southend was told his car exploded as he was trying to get his Alsatian dog Jed out of the vehicle.

The hearing was told Mr Johnson, who lived next to the garden centre and worked as a security guard, had been drinking at The Smuggler's Den in Hullbridge on the day he died.

Animal lover

When he left, he was seen to fall over. He ended up with a couple of cuts above his eye.

He got in his car and drove home where CCTV cameras at the garden centre showed him trying to get in through the gates to his caravan.

The footage, the inquest heard, showed him struggling to open the gates before reversing back into two cars - a Mercedes Benz and a Renault - and then through two fence panels.

Image caption The explosion happened at the Fairways Garden Centre in Rayleigh in October last year

Mr Johnson got out and then went to get his Alsatian dog from the back of his car. But the fuel tank of the car had ruptured and the vehicle exploded, the inquest heard.

His daughter Gina Bowd described Mr Johnson as an animal lover who was a very interesting man.

A narrative verdict was recorded by the acting Coroner for Southend and South East Essex Yvonne Blake.

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