A West Byfleet restaurant that “could have killed people” living above it when deadly carbon monoxide leaked from its kitchens has been prosecuted and fined almost £13,000.

The Okra Lounge in Station Approach, owned and operated by Okra Lounge Ltd, had a history of complaints about smoke entering the flats above, a court heard.

The problem even led to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service installing carbon monoxide detectors a month before the incident.

A Woking Borough Council statement added: “[If not for the detector] the case could have been much more serious, potentially resulting in fatalities.”

A man who lives above the restaurant, Michael Reeves, 46, recalling the night of Friday, July 14, 2023, said: “The firefighters told me I had to open all the windows and leave the flat. Neighbours were already downstairs and one was being given oxygen.

“At first I was feeling ok and decided not to go to the hospital but by Friday I started to feel rough and Saturday I went to hospital.” 

Mr Reeves claimed at the time of the incident that his carbon monoxide monitor showed a reading of 67. He continued that the fire brigade told him people are typically able to work in buildings with a level up to around 30.

The case was brought to court by Woking Borough Council on April 29, when one of the restaurant’s directors. Ilhan Coban, pleaded guilty at Guildford Magistrates’ Court to breaching health and safety legislation.

The court heard how the restaurant failed to clear coals from its grill and switched its kitchen’s ventilation system off before closing – resulting in high levels of carbon monoxide escaping into the flats.

Two people were taken to hospital that night with elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their blood; another was treated by paramedics for carbon monoxide inhalation at the scene.

Magistrates imposed a fine of £12,837.50 including surcharges and costs.

Mr Reeves said: “We’re pleased that they have been made to pay for their mistakes. Worse was that they never came to apologise or see how we were. We were living above them and they could have killed us.”

Councillor Liam Lyons, Woking Borough Council ’s planning and regulation lead, said: “This successful prosecution shows how seriously we at the council take the health and safety of our residents. Business owners need to take responsibility for their actions and operations, making sure that safety is preserved.“

Mr Coban said: “We’ve been taking out the coals, whatever’s left from the barbecue. Last night they forget, I forget. Because it was busy, I went to do shopping at a wholesaler in Croydon that’s open 24 hours. I went there for two hours and when I came back all the fire brigade and the ambulance were here.

“Obviously inside when we left that little coal in there gives out carbon monoxide. Obviously, it’s my fault, I didn’t check it when I come. I apologise.”