A verdict of misadventure has been returned by the jury at the inquest into the deaths of 10 victims of a fire at a Dublin halting site.
Relatives wept as the jury’s verdict was read out following five days of evidence at Dublin Coroner’s Court.
“To lost loved ones, they are always missed, always loved and never forgotten,” relatives of the deceased said in a statement.
Solicitor for the Gilbert family Patrick McCormack read a joint statement on behalf of the Connors, Lynch and Gilbert families as the inquest concluded. They thanked emergency services at the scene and family, friends and the public for support.
In a list of six recommendations the jury of eight men and four women commended John Keith Connors for his bravery in entering the burning unit to rescue his nephew, Tom Connors (then aged four, now seven), during the fire on the night of October 10th, 2015. The jury further recommended John Keith, who was 14 at the time of the fire, be nominated for a national bravery award.
Thomas Connors (27), his wife Sylvia (30) and their children Jim, five, Christy, three, and six-month-old Mary died in the fire. Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27) who was pregnant, and their daughters Jodie, aged nine, and Kelsey, age four also perished. Jimmy Lynch (39), a brother of Willy, also died in the blaze. The fire destroyed the mobile home in which all 10 were sleeping at the Glenamuck Halting site in Carrickmines, Dublin 18.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said no inquest left the court unmoved but seldom was a case of this scale heard. Dr Cullinane commended the family whom she said conducted themselves with “great dignity” throughout.
“Ten lives were lost and one of an unborn child. In a very brief number of minutes this occurred. We’ve heard harrowing evidence of the impact of this tragedy. Family members conducted themselves with great dignity in giving their evidence which cannot have been easy, to bring back to mind so vividly these events,” Dr Cullinane said.
The inquest heard that the victims were staying in a mobile home at the Glenamuck Halting Site when the fire occurred. The fire self-ignited from oil in a chip pan left on a hot plate powered to its highest setting, on the hob of an electric cooker.
The inquest heard that all 10 victims died due to carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation in the fire. Autopsies found that all five adults had been drinking alcohol and Deputy State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the court that acute alcohol intoxication “certainly does affect reaction times”.
Gardaí conducted a full investigation into the fire and submitted a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP directed that no charges be brought.
The halting site had been established as emergency temporary accommodation on lands earmarked for road upgrade works in the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Development Plan.
The halting site was exempt from planning and fire safety guidelines due to its “emergency” status. In late 2016 a road layout plan was finalised and the council established a permanent halting site for the families living at the Glenamuck site.
The jury recommended the nomination of a safety champion for all halting sites and endorsed new National Directorate for Emergency Management fire safety guidelines and asked that these be brought to the attention of all local authorities. The jury recommended these guidelines should be implemented as best possible practice in all existing and future Traveller accommodation.
The jury further recommended that powers to establish emergency halting sites be utilised for the shortest time possible to ensure the development of well planned Traveller sites.