Friday 18 August 2017

Communities in shock as two die in separate house fires

Ralph Riegel and  John Fallon

HOUSE fires yesterday claimed the lives of a man and a woman in separate incidents in Cork and Galway.

Heavy smoke and flames prevented neighbours from saving an elderly pensioner after an early morning blaze swept through her home in Cork, while a man in his forties died in the Galway tragedy.

Kathleen Murphy (74) died from suspected smoke inhalation after apparently being overcome by smoke while asleep in the bedroom of her home.

The fire was detected at the house at Middle Road, Crosshaven, Co Cork, at 5am yesterday when an alert neighbour spotted smoke and flames billowing from a window.

Neighbours rushed to check on the premises but the fire was already sweeping through the house. They were unable to gain entry through the doors or windows because of the heat, heavy smoke and flames. Units from both Carrigaline and Crosshaven fire brigades raced to the scene and fought to bring the blaze under control.

However, the fire had caused so much damage to the property that several internal walls had subsequently collapsed, making operations extremely difficult for the emergency services.

The woman's body was discovered in the house when fire fighters, after bringing the blaze under control, were finally able to gain safe entry to the premises. The woman's body was removed to Cork University Hospital (CUH) where a full post-mortem examination by assistant state pathologist Margaret Bolster was scheduled to start last night.

Suspicious

A full investigation into the cause of the tragic blaze is now under way. Gardai are not treating the matter as suspicious and initial inquiries are focusing on a possible electrical cause. The 74-year-old was a mother of three and a grandmother, and her extended family all live in the Cork area. She had been living in the bungalow for several years.

Neighbours said they were deeply shocked by the tragedy, particularly coming so soon after Christmas.

"She was a lovely lady -- always had time for a chat and a kind word. It is a terrible thing to happen," one woman said.

Crosshaven parish priest Fr Patrick Stevenson said the entire community was reeling from the tragedy. "It is awful -- particularly at this time of year. We are all in shock," he said.

Prayers were offered for the woman at Masses in Crosshaven and Carrigaline yesterday.

Meanwhile, an investigation was under way in south Co Galway after a man died in a house fire yesterday morning.

The man, in his late 40s, lost his life when fire engulfed a house at Abbey, Loughrea.

Two other people who were in the house at the time managed to escape and raise the alarm around 9am. Fire crews from Portumna and Loughrea rushed to the scene and brought the fire in the house at Cregg, Abbey, under control.

The body of the dead man was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post-mortem examination.

The two people who were in the house were taken to the same hospital in Galway city where they were treated for smoke inhalation.

The dead man's name was not being released until relatives in the US could be informed. Gardai in Loughrea (091-842870) have appealed for witnesses.

Irish Independent

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