Fatal house fire began after grill was left on
A house fire that claimed the lives of a two-year-old boy and his four-year-old brother began when a grill was left on, filling the house with smoke as they slept upstairs, an inquest heard yesterday.
Cian Ellard Punch died at Cork University Hospital on October 30th, 2011, while his older brother, Calvin Ellard Punch, died at the hospital three days later, on November 2nd, following a house fire at their home at Elm Park, Wilton in Cork city in the early hours of October 30th, 2011.
Yesterday Cork Coroner’s Court heard from technical expert, Garda James O’Sullivan who said it appeared the fire began in the grill of a cooker in the kitchen of the two-storey terraced house, which was fitted with a smoke alarm in the downstairs hall.
Garda O’Sullivan said it appeared the grill had been left on at mark five, and he believed it led to a slow-burning fire that produced a large volume of black smoke, which vented out through the sides of the cooker and rose up through the house into the upstairs bedrooms.
The boys’ mother, Stacey Ellard, told the inquest how she had come home about 2am on October 30th after an evening socialising, and chatted for a while with her brother Wayne, who had been babysitting the children, and her cousin Donal Ring.
House full of smoke
“I heated some pizza in the microwave – I have no recollection of using the oven,” said Ms Ellard, who told how she woke up later that night to find the house hot and full of smoke and she had severe difficulty breathing.
“My first thought was to get Cian and Calvin out of the house,” said Ms Ellard, adding she couldn’t recall whether or not she had managed to get into the boys’ bedroom. The next thing she remembered was waking up in hospital.
Wayne Ellard told the inquest he had put the two boys to bed and later cooked two pies for himself in the oven part of the cooker, but did not use the grill, and he said he turned off the cooker after use.
The inquest heard how the alarm was raised when a next-door neighbour, 19-year-old Nicole Collins, woke up to discover smoke in her house and she managed to get her 11-year-old brother, Adam, out before she rang her mother, Sharon.
Sharon Collins returned home with her boyfriend, Patrick Fox, and he broke down the door of the Ellards’ house and tried to get upstairs but was forced back by the thick smoke, as were Sgt Brendan McKenna and Garda Rory O’Connell.
Cork City Fire Brigade officer Declan O’Shea told how firefighters found Ms Ellard lying on the body of one of her sons on the floor of the master bedroom with the other boy in bed.
All three were unconscious and given CPR at the scene, before being taken to Cork University Hospital.
The inquest heard that Cian died from carbon monoxide poisoning and Calvin from hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, or insufficient oxygen to the brain, both due to smoke inhalation due to the house fire.
The jury returned verdicts of accidental deaths in both cases and Cork city coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane extended her sympathies to Ms Ellard and her partner, Ricky Punch, on what she described as “a tragedy of unimaginable proportions which had devastated the family”.