Call to fit carbon monoxide alarms after elderly man’s death

Jack Mahony (74) died following house fire likely caused by cigarette, inquest hears

The death of an elderly man in Cork has highlighted the need for carbon monoxide alarms, a coroner has said. Photograph: iStockPhoto/Getty

The death of an elderly man in Cork has highlighted the need for carbon monoxide alarms, a coroner has said. Photograph: iStockPhoto/Getty

 

The death of a pensioner from smoke inhalation following a fire at his home in Cork city has highlighted the need for people to have carbon monoxide alarms fitted, a coroner has said.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn made his comments at the inquest into the death of 74-year-old Jack Mahony, who died in a fire at his home at Kelleher’s Buildings, Dillons Cross, in the early hours of December 17th 2016.

Mr Mahony’s nephew Don McCarthy said that his uncle was a single man who lived alone and was a hoarder who didn’t believe in throwing away anything. He didn’t drink but he was a heavy smoker who smoked up to 100 cigarettes a day. “Smoking was his life,” he said.

He said his uncle used to sleep by day and get up in the evening. At around 4.30am on December 17th, Mr McCarthy received a phone call from one of his uncle’s neighbours, Michael Brett, to say there had been a fire and his uncle had died.

The inquest heard firefighters had difficulty accessing the two storey mid-terraced house as it was full of refuse, including bags lining the stairs and behind the door. They found Mr Mahony in the kitchen area, which had suffered smoke damage.

Det Garda Derry Griffin said he examined the house after it was made safe and identified the source or “seat” of the fire as an area in the middle of the living room where there had been a collection of refuse including paper, plastic and cardboard.

There was a electrical plug in the area but no appliance had been plugged in. The most likely cause of the fire was either a lit cigarette or cigarette butt falling into the material and igniting it, he said.

Dr Margaret Bolster examined the body of Mr Mahony and found that he had carbon monoxide levels of 31 per cent in his blood stream. She also discovered he had suffered from chronic lung disease and coronary artery disease.

In healthy adults, carbon monoxide levels are fatal at 50 per cent or more but in elderly person like Mr Mahony a level of 31 per cent was high enough to be fatal, she said.

Dr Bolster told Mr Comyn that carbon monoxide was a colourless odourless gas caused by the incomplete burning of carbon and a person would not be aware of it unless they had a carbon monoxide monitor installed in their home.

Mr Comyn returned a verdict of accidental death following carbon monoxide poisoning due to a house fire. He expressed his condolences to Mr Mahony’s family before issuing a call for people to fit carbon monoxide alarms in their homes.