Offaly woman died from burns after fire during e-cigarette use, inquest told

Caroline Murphy (54) was seriously injured in June 2017 when medical breathing device caught fire

Caroline  Murphy (54), a mother of two, from Rathcobian, Rhode, Co Offaly, suffered 7 per cent burns to her face, neck and upper chest during the incident at her home on June 22nd 2017.

Caroline Murphy (54), a mother of two, from Rathcobian, Rhode, Co Offaly, suffered 7 per cent burns to her face, neck and upper chest during the incident at her home on June 22nd 2017.

 

An Offaly woman died as a result of health complications from burns suffered in her home when a medical breathing device caught fire while she was using an e-cigarette, an inquest has heard.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded at Dublin Coroner’s Court after evidence showed that the burns injuries triggered a “cascade” of health issues which resulted in the death of Caroline Murphy five weeks later in St James’ Hospital in Dublin.

The coroner, Dr Crona Gallagher, said she would alert a number of regulatory authorities about the incident as a document that was filled out to authorise the use of highly combustible, home oxygen equipment by Ms Murphy indicated she was a non-smoker.

Dr Gallagher said there was a question over whether vaping or use of e-cigarettes was considered smoking.

Ms Murphy, a 54-year-old mother of two, from Rathcobian, Rhode, Co Offaly, suffered 7 per cent burns to her face, neck and upper chest during the incident at her home on June 22nd 2017.

The inquest, which originally opened in April 2019, was adjourned in order to allow further evidence to be gathered about the medical equipment Ms Murphy was using and on her treatment in hospital.

The victim’s husband, Pat Murphy, had previously given evidence that he had heard her call out from her bedroom that she was “burning up” and “in flames”.

Mr Murphy, who died last year, said his wife’s hair was on fire, while the nasal tube attached to her face was melting.

The witness, who was a wheelchair user, said he had taken off his shirt and wrapped it around his wife before carrying her into the shower.

Asked by the coroner if his wife had been smoking when the fire ignited, Mr Murphy said she had taken a pull of an e-cigarette.

The resumed inquest heard on Monday that Ms Murphy had been receiving dialysis three times a week at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore.

Professor George Mellotte, a consultant nephrologist at St James’ Hospital, said an alternative form of treatment had been required for Ms Murphy as a result of her burns injuries as she was unfit for her normal dialysis.

The inquest heard her condition had improved slowly and she had been moved out of the intensive care unit to the hospital’s burns unit until she suffered a sudden deterioration on July 28th 2017 and died two days later.

Prof Mellotte agreed with the coroner that the burns injuries had triggered Ms Murphy’s demise as her kidney disease alone would not have caused her death at that stage in her life.

The inquest heard that safety notices provided by BOC Homecare did specifically alert users to the dangers posed by smoking near the equipment including the use of e-cigarettes.

The company had informed the coroner that no fault was found with the equipment after it had been returned.

Returning a verdict of accidental death, Dr Gallagher said she would alert the Health Products Regulatory Authority and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission about the incident.

She would also ask the HSE to review its documentation to ensure there was clarity around whether vaping was considered as smoking.