Inquest hears fatal house fire likely caused by tealight

Mary Reynell (88) died of asphyxia due to soot and carbon monoxide toxicity

The scene of a house fire in Ventry Park, Cabra, Dublin which killed  Mary Reynell. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The scene of a house fire in Ventry Park, Cabra, Dublin which killed Mary Reynell. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A fire that killed an elderly woman in Dublin was most likely caused by tea light, an inquest has heard.

Mary Reynell (88) from Ventry Park, Cabra, Dublin 7, was sleeping in a downstairs room of the house due to mobility issues. She was living independently but received regular visits from family and neighbours.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard how she liked to light tea lights and would place the candle on a plate or saucer in her hallway at night time.

Friend Frank Rochford said he often called to see Mrs Reynell and do jobs around the house for her.

“For as long as I remember she used to light nightlights and leave them lighting in the hall on a table,” he said in his deposition. However when Mrs Reynell asked him to light the tea light for her one night he refused and threw the candles in the bin believing they were dangerous.

Neighbours raised the alarm on January 2nd, 2017 when a smoke alarm was heard and smoke was seen coming from the woman’s house.

Neighbours tried to gain access to rescue Mrs Reynell but were unable. She was found on the floor of her downstairs bedroom by a team of Dublin Fire Brigade firefighters.

She was removed from the house but pronounced dead at the scene at 5.40am. In his report Garda Mark Kelly of Cabra Garda station said the fire started on a bedside locker.

“A candle would seem to be the most likely cause,” the coroner said.

One of the woman’s sons described the damage to her bedroom from the public gallery.

“Where my mum slept was very bad, you could see where the flames shot up the wall to the ceiling and spread into the hall,” he said.

A postmortem revealed the woman suffered superficial burns to her face, hands and arms with burns across 25 per cent of her body but these were not the cause of her death.

She had inhaled toxic levels of soot and carbon monoxide as the fire took hold, the court heard. The cause of death was asphyxia due to soot and carbon monoxide toxicity with heart disease as a contributory factor.

Deputy Coroner Dr Crona Gallagher returned a verdict of accidental death.

“Candles by their very nature can be risky and candles left burning can cause difficulties,” the coroner said.