Autopsy evidence following the Carrickmines halting site fire found all five adults who died in the blaze had been drinking, an inquest has heard.
The fire killed 10 people - five adults and five children, including five-month-old baby Mary Connors. All 10 victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation in the fire, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest that autopsies revealed they all had fatal levels of carbon monoxide saturation, apart from baby Mary.
However, Dr Bolster said infants and the elderly are far more vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The court heard that Thomas Connors (27) had consumed chips shortly before he died in the fire, which was caused by a chip pan left on the hot plate of an electric cooker.
All five adults had been drinking on the night of the fire at the Glenamuck Halting Site on October 10th, 2015. Toxicology screenings at post-mortem found the adults had consumed between four and six alcoholic drinks each.
Asked by the coroner if alcohol may have had a role to play in the fire, Dr Bolster replied it did. “Unfortunately I have worked on many cases in the setting of acute alcohol intoxication...it certainly does affect reaction times,” Dr Bolster said.
Tara Gilbert (27) was visiting the halting site with her partner Willie Lynch (25) and their two daughters Jodie (nine) and Kelsey (four) on the night of the fire. The court heard Ms Gilbert was between 14 and 16 weeks pregnant and the autopsy revealed she was carrying a boy.
Thomas Connors his wife Sylvia (30) and their sons Jimmy (five) and Christy (three) were recovered from the main bedroom of the mobile home after the fire. Jimmy Lynch (39), a brother of Willie Lynch, was removed from the kitchen area, near the seat of the fire.
Thomas Connors had a blood alcohol level of 224 milligrams per cent at autopsy, the equivalent of about six pints of beer. He had recently consumed a large volume of chips, the court heard. Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said this was significant as the cause of the fire was a chip pan left on the hot plate of an electric cooker.
Mr Connors was the only victim to have consumed chips shortly before the fire, the court heard.
The victims were ‘deeply unconscious’ due to carbon monoxide poisoning before their bodies were damaged in the flames, Dr Bolster said.
“Carbon monoxide saturation levels of over 50 per cent are considered fatal in adults. Lower levels can kill children and the elderly,” Dr Bolster said.
Mary Connors most likely suffered fatal injuries in the bedroom of the mobile home she was rescued from, Dr Bolster told the court.
“It is likely Mary had already suffered serious injury before she was moved….The first fire left the baby significantly compromised,” Dr Bolster said.
The emergency temporary halting site was established by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council in 2008. The site was exempt from planning and fire regulations because of its ‘emergency’ status.
A finalised road layout for lands at the site was agreed in late 2016 allowing the council establish a permanent halting site on land adjacent to the original Glenamuck Halting Site.
This halting site, named Tír na Chroí, is permanent and all fire and safety regulations apply.
The inquest continues on Tuesday when the coroner will sum up the evidence heard to date and the jury will consider its verdict.