Coroner warns on chip pan dangers after drinking alcohol

Inquest hears 17-year-old died of carbon monoxide poisoning after chip pan fire

A coroner has issued a warning over the dangers of people cooking in chip pans late at night while under the influence of alcohol following the death of a teenager in a house fire in Cork.

Coroner for South Cork, Frank O’Connell, said he had come across four such cases in his time as a coroner and they all followed exactly the same pattern.

“Clearly there is a great danger if people come in home late at night and decide to cook chips in a chip pan while under the influence of alcohol,” said Mr O’Connell.

Mr O'Connell made his comments after hearing evidence of how 17-year-old Evan Kidney died while staying at his grandmother's house at Elm Vale in Wilton in Cork on October 19th, 2014.


The inquest heard evidence from Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster that Mr Kidney died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation during a house fire.

Dr Bolster told the inquest that toxicology tests taken at autopsy showed Mr Kidney had carbon monoxide levels of 67 per cent in his blood, well above the fatal limit of 50 per cent.

Toxicology tests also revealed Mr Kidney had an alcohol concentration of 197mg per per 100ml of blood, and this would have had a strong sedative effect on the teenager.

Overcome by fumes

Dr Bolster said Mr Kidney would have slipped into unconsciousness and would not have suffered when he was overcome by fumes from the chip pan going on fire in the kitchen.

Sgt Caroline Nolan said a technical examination of the house confirmed the chip pan had gone on fire and burned the area around the cooker, causing extensive smoke damage.

When gardaí were called to the house at about 4pm on October 19th last, the chip pan had burned itself out and the whole area was cold, suggesting the fire had happened several hours earlier.

The inquest heard evidence from Mr Kidney’s older brother Dylan of how he had called to his grandmother’s house at Elm Vale to discover all the blinds down.

He and his brothers often stayed with their grandmother, who was away that weekend. When he entered the house he noticed the glass on the kitchen door was obscured by smoke.

Entering the kitchen, he saw there had been a fire near the oven before spotting his younger brother slumped over a clothes horse.

Started CPR

He rang his mother briefly to tell her what he found and then rang the emergency services before starting CPR on his brother until paramedics arrived and took over.

The inquest heard Mr Kidney, of Lower Pouladuff Road in Cork, was pronounced dead at the scene and his body was removed to Cork University Hospital for postmortem.

The inquest heard from two of his friends, including one who said they had spent the previous day watching soccer and rugby matches before meeting up with friends that night.

The friend told how he had left Mr Kidney at 11.45pm and that they had arranged to meet up the following day, as they had a match with Greenwood FC whom they both played for.

The other friend told of how Mr Kidney had kept alcohol after a party they had attended a week earlier and they were drinking with friends before Mr Kidney left to go home.

The Coroner extended his deepest sympathies to Mr Kidney’s mother Siobhan, brothers, Aaron and Dylan, grandmother Kathleen and other relatives on their loss.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times