Sunday 26 February 2017

Company executive 'not told of gas death worries'

Greg Harkin

A senior executive of an electrical appliance company was not told of fears that a faulty cooker had killed a student until four months later, an inquest heard yesterday.

A high-level meeting of several government quangos and representatives of Beko and Glen Dimplex had taken place in November 2008 following the death of French student Alexis Landry in Co Cork.

However, senior Beko executive Conor Halpin admitted he wasn't told the 21-year-old was killed by carbon monoxide until February 2009.

Public recalls for more than 5,000 cookers were issued, but in September 2009 two more people died.

A jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure on the deaths of Annie "Nana" Gallagher (84) and Sally McDyre (79) who died on September 24 at Mrs Gallagher's home in Glenties, Co Donegal.

During the second day of the inquest into their deaths, family solicitor Frank Dorrian was highly critical of the agencies that met in November 2008 after Mr Landry's death.

The inquest heard the 21-year-old had died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a Glen Dimplex-branded cooker supplied by a Beko-run factory in Turkey.

The National Consumer Agency (NCA), National Standards Authority of Ireland and the Commission for Energy Regulation met within days of the Cork death with representatives of Glen Dimplex and Beko.

However, Beko executive Mr Halpin told the inquest that he was not aware that carbon monoxide was involved until four months later, even though the company had been represented at the meeting.

"I can't explain that," he said in questioning by Mr Dorrian.

The solicitor said the families wanted to know how their relatives had died 10 months after the Cork death and three UK deaths from faulty Beko cookers.

Mr Dorrian said he found it strange that none of the recall notices issued in early 2009 had even mentioned Glen Dimplex as one of the brands involved.

Catherine Lenihan, former assistant director of the NCA, told the hearing that recall pick-up rates on faulty products were low at about 5pc to 10pc but said the agency did not have the power to audit them.

Earlier, the inquest heard that Donegal electrical retailer Neil McGroarty, who sold the Beko cooker to Mrs Gallagher in 2007, revealed that he had responded to a recall warning six months before the Donegal deaths by compiling a list of 96 customers.

The range of Beko cookers were found to emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide when used with the grill door closed.

Mr McGroarty said he posted this customer list to Beko in March or April 2009, a list which Beko claimed it never received.

Horrified

Mr McGroarty said that he was horrified to discover after the Glenties death that Beko had not received the list and said he would have expected the company to have come back to him if they hadn't.

At the inquest in Letterkenny, the jury returned a unanimous verdict that the Co Donegal pensioners had died as a result of asphyxiation from carbon monoxide emitted by a gas cooker, finding that the death was "by misadventure".

The jury recommended giving greater powers to the Commission for Energy Regulation to investigate accidents in gas domestic appliances.

It also recommended that the NCA should be given "a greater role in suggesting product recalls and they should be able to audit product recalls and issue penalties to businesses which fail to meet audits".

Donegal Coroner Dr Denis McCauley issued a plea for owners of 1,355 undetected faulty gas cookers to get in touch with the NCA and Beko.

Last night, the NCA again urged owners of the affected Beko cookers to contact them.

Further details are available at www.nca.ie.

Irish Independent

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