Woman died after oxygen supply mask blew up, court told


A WOMAN whose oxygen supply blew up in her face when she may have been trying to light a cigarette died instantly of a heart attack, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

Mary Kearney (65) was at her home on Champions Avenue, Waterford Street in Dublin’s city centre when the incident happened just after midnight on February 24th last year. A lifelong smoker, she had been taking oxygen for three years having developed severe emphysema.

In a deposition to the court, her husband John said that about 20 minutes before the incident he had brought his wife some water and she seemed in good form.

He then heard a fire alarm go off and a bang. He checked her oxygen concentrator, which was located downstairs, and it was working but when he went upstairs he found Mrs Kearney lying face down on the floor. Her face was black. He brought her to the bed and attempted CPR.

She was taken to the Mater hospital but was later pronounced dead.

The court heard that it was probable that Mrs Kearney had been attempting to light a cigarette at the time of the incident. Her son John Kearney jnr said his mother had been very stressed at the time following the death of her brother. She may not have been in her right mind at the time, he said.

The company that supplied the air concentrator, Air Products Ireland, inspected it following the incident. Quality manager John McEvoy said the fire had been localised to the nasal prongs at the end of the oxygen tube and there was no problem with the concentrator machine. The only way the flare-up could have happened is if the area immediately around the nasal prongs had come into contact with a naked flame.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that while there was no evidence that Mrs Kearney had been smoking a cigarette at the time, this was the most likely cause of the incident. A post-mortem revealed that the flare-up was not the cause of her death. She had been suffering from severe heart disease and the shock of the incident had brought on cardiac arrest causing her to die instantly.

Dr Farrell returned a verdict of death by misadventure.