Accidental death verdict on Cork boys


A house fire which claimed the lives of a two-year-old boy and his four-year-old brother was caused by a grill, an inquest heard today.

Cian Ellard Punch (2) died at Cork University Hospital on October 30th, 2011 following a house fire at his home at Elm Park, Wilton in Cork city in the early hours of October 30th 2011.. His brother Calvin Ellard Punch (4) died three days later in hospital.

Cork Coroner's Court heard today from technical expert Gda James O’Sullivan, who said it appeared the fire began in the grill section of a cooker in the kitchen of the two storey terraced house. The house was fitted with a smoke alarm downstairs in the hall.

Gda O'Sullivan said it appeared the grill had been left on. He said he believed it led to a slow burning fire which produced a large volume of black smoke. This 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 at 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.

"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 could not recall whether or not she managed to get into the boys' bedroom. She said the next thing she remembered was waking up in hospital.

Wayne Ellard told the inquest that 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 next door neighbour Nicole Collins (19) 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, who broke down the door of the Ellard's house. He tried to get upstairs but was forced back by the thick smoke. Two gardaí - Sgt Brendan McKenna and Gda Rory O'Connell – also tried in vain to reach the family upstairs.

Cork City Fire Brigade Officer, Declan O'Shea told how firefighters found Ms Ellard lying on top of one of her sons on the floor of the master bedroom, while the other boy was in bed. All three were unconscious and given CPR at the scene before being taken to hospital.

The inquest heard Cian died from carbon monoxide poisoning and Calvin died from hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy or insufficient oxygen to the brain, both due to smoke inhalation due to a house fire.

The jury returned verdicts of accidental deaths in both cases.

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".