'I ran out of the shed in disbelief...'
A QUEENSLAND man accused of burning a Tweed fisherman's shed to the ground has told the court the incident was entirely accidental.
Twenty-three-year-old Palm Beach man Zachariah Blayden - who has been charged with intentionally or recklessly destroying property by fire - appeared as a witness before Tweed Heads Local Court on Wednesday morning.
Mr Blayden had attended a party at David Smith's Fingal Head home to farewell his long-term friend and Mr Smith's son, Joel, on the afternoon of Friday, March 17 this year.
Mr Blayden has not denied responsibility for the fire which burnt Mr Smith's shed, destroying his commercial fishing equipment, but said it was not intentional.
As the night settled on the party, Mr Blayden said the group of friends began complaining of the cold.
The accused, who told the court he consumed about 24 standard beers, wine, MDMA and marijuana throughout the course of the evening, said he went in search of materials with which to light a fire in a fire pit, located near the home's patio.
After finding a charred, large log in the fire pit, Mr Blayden entered the nearby shed with hopes of finding dry wood, as it had been raining, he told the court.
There, lighting the way with his smartphone's torch, he found a large plastic jerry can which contained two-stroke fuel.
"I grabbed it... and opened it up," Mr Blayden said.
"I had the idea that I could use it to put it on a bit of wood (in the fire pit) in order to speed things up."
Mr Blayden said he'd replaced the lid before lifting the can, but when he picked it up he stumbled, splashing a large amount of fuel onto the floor.
When he looked up, Mr Blayden said the floor was alight.
"I ran out of the shed in disbelief... in panic mode," Mr Blayden said.
Police prosecutor Garry Rowe asked Mr Blayden why he appeared not to be rushing on CCTV footage of him leaving the shed.
He also queried Mr Blayden's choice not to say anything of the cause to his close friends at the time, or in the days following the event.
Mr Blayden said his mother had instructed him not to say anything about the incident "until we know what happened".
He told the court he had not shared details of the event until relaying them to his mother on May 1.
During questioning from his barrister, Peter O'Connor, Mr Blayden said he had been significantly affected by alcohol and drugs at the time of the incident.
He recalled a good relationship with David Smith and his son, referring to him as "a positive father-figure".
He also spoke of the deep regret he had felt over the incident.
The defence case will continue this afternoon.