AN elderly widow died in a house fire after being overcome by smoke and fumes when she was just yards from safety.
Mother-of-six Bina O'Connor (85) made it downstairs in her blazing two-storey farmhouse but collapsed just metres from the safety of her back door.
The pensioner lived with her son and daughter in the farmhouse at Kilvoultra, outside Macroom, Co Cork.
A fire erupted shortly after 7am yesterday and a son of Mrs O'Connor's was able to assist his sister, Margaret, who has Down syndrome, out of the blazing structure.
However, he was unable to get back into the house because of the dense smoke and flames.
Mrs O'Connor is believed to have become disorientated in the house due to smoke and fumes and collapsed when she was just three metres from reaching a door to exit the burning building. Her body was later recovered by Macroom Fire Brigade personnel equipped with breathing apparatus.
Her middle-aged son and daughter were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation but did not require hospitalisation.
The two fire brigade units quickly extinguished the blaze but major structural damage was caused to the walls and roof, part of which collapsed.
Mrs O'Connor's son, Donal, who lives nearby, told the Irish Independent that the family were "very upset" and would be making no comment.
He said they now wished to have their privacy respected.
It also emerged that one of Mrs O'Connor's sons had taken part in a special COPE charity fundraising run in Macroom last Sunday morning. The charity provides services to people with intellectual disabilities.
Mrs O'Connor's daughter has been a COPE client over the years and was being consoled by nursing staff yesterday.
Mrs O'Connor was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics and her body was transferred to Cork University Hospital (CUH) for a post-mortem examination by Assistant State Pathologist Margaret Bolster.
The elderly woman is believed to have died from smoke inhalation.
Gardai are conducting a full technical examination of the scene.
Neighbours described Mrs O'Connor as "a very quiet woman who was absolutely devoted to her family".
"She doted on her children but especially her daughter. It is so, so tragic. We are all numbed by it," one woman said.
Mrs O'Connor was predeceased by her husband, Michael, and is survived by her children Richard, Diarmuid, Stephen, Donal, Kathleen and Margaret.