Criminal investigation underway into fatal Sligo fire, inquest hears

Judge refuses jurisdiction due to seriousness of allegations after death of father and son


A criminal investigation has begun into the circumstances of a fire in which a father and son died, a coroner heard on Monday.

Christopher (Sunny) Harte (64) and his son Sean (34) died after being overcome by smoke when fire swept through their apartment building in Market Street, Sligo on April 22nd last year.

An inquest into their deaths opened at Sligo Coroner’s Court but was adjourned after coroner Eamon MacGowan was told that a prosecution is pending and has been transferred from the District Court to the Circuit Court.

The coroner heard that there were a number of apartments in the three-storey building. By the time the emergency services arrived on the night of the tragedy, fire had engulfed two floors but the apartment where the father and son lived was not on fire. A number of people had escaped the building and were on the roof or in an adjoining alley when Gardaí arrived.

The jury was told that there is no Garda prosecution in the case but that that the local authority is prosecuting.

Earlier this year at Sligo District Court Judge Kevin Kilrane was told that Sligo County Council is prosecuting the owners and letting agents of the building where the father and son died. They are charged with failing to comply with their obligations under Section 18 of the Fire Services Act 1981. After Judge Kilrane heard an outline of the case , he said he would refuse jurisdiction because of the seriousness of the allegations and because the fire had resulted in two deaths.

The inquest was adjourned after the jury found that in both cases, cause of death was due to inhalation of smoke and fire gases. Extending sympathy to the family Mr MacGowan pointed out that two members of the same family had died in once incident

He said the circumstances were tragic and involved a threat to a number of people in the property. There was no fire in the Harte’s apartment but they were overcome by smoke and gases, he pointed out.