Man suffered deadly burns after he fell between bed and radiator

Inquest hears of fatal injuries suffered by Desmond Butler (86) at his home in Dublin

An elderly man sustained first degree burns after he slipped and became stuck between his bed and a radiator, an inquest has heard.

Desmond Butler (86) from Six Cross Lane, Rush, Co Dublin was found caught between his bed and a radiator in the room where he slept, Dublin Coroner's Court heard.

Mr Butler was a former president of Erin’s Isle GAA Club. He was healthy, he loved sport, the sea and he was a character, according to his children.

"He was a lovely man. He loved his sport. The house in Rush was a holiday home originally. He was getting healthy since he'd moved out there," Jack Butler said of his father on behalf of the family.


Mr Butler's neighbour Robert Byrne awoke to a knock on his front door at 8.30am on February 19th, 2016. It was a passerby who had been alerted by Mr Butler's wife.

Mr Byrne said he went next door to the Butlers’ house.

“Dessie was wedged between his bed and the radiator,” Mr Byrne said.

Mr Butler said he was cold, tired and hungry, but could not remember how he had become stuck, the court heard. “He said, ‘I’m freezing here Robert,’” Mr Byrne said in his deposition.

An ambulance was called to help free the man and family members arrived. Susan McGuinness said her father had red marks on his right arm and right side.

“The ambulance crew said it was most likely burns from the radiator,” she said. “He said he’d been up late watching the elections. Some time between 2am and 8am something happened but I don’t know what.”

Her father was transferred by ambulance to Beaumont Hospital where doctors found he had suffered full-thickness first degree burns over 18 per cent of his body.

Mr Butler was transferred to the burns unit at St James’s Hospital for specialist treatment.

Staff at St James’s noted that he was not fully alert. He became critically unwell. He developed kidney problems and was treated with antibiotics and pain-killers but suffered a cardiac arrest the following day. He was resuscitated by medical staff but died in hospital on February 21st.

The cause of death was pneumonia due to burns occurring as a consequence of a fall, according to a postmortem report. There was no evidence of a heart attack or stroke that may have caused the fall, the court heard.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said full-thickness burns are not as painful as more superficial burns because the nerves are damaged. However, first degree burns pose grave dangers for the kidneys and general circulation, the coroner said.

“I think he must have slipped in some way, it may have been something very simple,” Dr Cullinane said, returning a verdict of accidental death.