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Thursday 21 August 2014

Pensioner died from burns after coat caught fire from electric heater, inquest told

Gareth Naughton

Published 01/07/2014 | 16:20

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A pensioner died after suffering burns to more than half his body when his coat caught fire from an electric heater, an inquest heard.

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Eoghan Carroll (74) died at the burns unit in St James’s Hospital on May 12 last year, four days after he became engulfed in flames at his home at Sandy Lane, Blackrock, Dundalk, Co Louth.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard from Mr Carroll’s neighbour Sandra Meehan that she was walking down the lane toward his house on May 9 when she saw a man “completely on fire” walk out from behind a hedge.

“He seemed completely on fire from head to toe. His whole head was on fire. It wasn’t like smoking, it was complete flames and I could not make out who it was at all,” she said.

Ms Meehan rushed to a neighbour’s house to get help and others came to Mr Carroll’s aid. When the flames were out, Mr Carroll was “very lucid”, said Ms Meehan. He was still walking and said that the back of his coat had caught fire. “He asked someone to cover him at the back and he said: ‘I'm not doing well lately’,” she told the court.

The dead man’s nephew Niall Carroll was on the scene within minutes, arriving as paramedics tended to his uncle. He ran down to check the house and walked into the kitchen. “You could smell that there had been a fire,” he said. He told the fire brigade, who had arrived and were preparing their hoses to put out the blaze, that there was “no need”.  

Mr Meehan was initially taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda before being transferred to the burns unit at St James’s Hospital where he later died from his injuries. 

Scenes investigator Garda Aidan Hanlon said that when he examined the house he could see no seat of the fire and it appeared that Mr Carroll himself had sustained the majority of the fire damage. No traces of accelerant were found. When the power was turned back on, the electric heater in the kitchen lit up, the court heard. Gda Hanlon said that in his opinion Mr Carroll received his injuries from this electric fire.

At post-mortem, the pathologist found that he had suffered very severe full thickness burns on 39 per cent of his body and partial thickness burns on another 12 per cent. Death was due to multi-organ failure as a result of severe burns. 

Deputy coroner Maria Colbert returned a verdict of accidental death.

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