Gardai describe chaotic scenes inside the burning building
Garda management have paid tribute to Garda Caitriona O'Sullivan and Garda Liam Phillips for their bravery three years ago in rescuing two people from a burning apartment block in Mallow in which two other people lost their lives.
Insp Joe O'Connor said the two gardai had shown tremendous courage in not only rescuing Christopher Palmer and Rachel Crawshaw but also getting other occupants of Granary Court safely out after Crawshaw set a fire which claimed the lives of John Palmer and Greg Lonergan.
Insp O'Connor was speaking at the inquest into the deaths of Mr Palmer and Mr Lonergan who both perished in the blaze set by Crawshaw sometime just before midnight on the night of March 12-13th in the third floor apartment in the complex on St Joseph's Road in Mallow.
The inquest heard from Garda Caitriona O'Sullivan how she had called to the apartment at around 9.30pm on March 12th when windows were smashed and she found all four occupants, the two Palmers, Mr Lonergan and Crawshaw all extremely intoxicated.
Less than three hours later she was back at the apartment complex responding to an emergency call after fire broke out there and she and her colleague, Garda Liam Philips, kicked in the front door and raced up through the smoke filled building to find Christopher Palmer unconscious on the landing.
"I could see that his body was covered in dark black soot and he had froth coming from his mouth - Chris Palmer was unconscious," said Garda O'Sullivan, adding that she helped Garda Phillips drag him through the smoke filled landing to near an open window.
Garda Phillips told how when he checked for Palmer's pulse he found one even though his breating was very shallow. "I dragged him across the hall to where there was a window - I opened the window to let some fresh air in .... I attempted to rouse Christopher Palmer but he was unresponsive," said Garda Phillips, adding there was now a large volume of smoke in the hallway.
Meanwhile, Garda O'Sullivan told how she heard a woman screeching in another apartment and opened the door only to be forced back by the thick smoke. However, she reached in and managed to drag Crawshaw out - but she was extremely drunk and highly abusive.
"She was shouting 'get your fucking hands off me - I'm not leaving without my bottle of cider' ... I requested her to drop the cider - I had to force the plastic bottle from her hand and it fell on the landing,
"I then requested that she make her way outside the building to safety while we attended to the unconscious male. Rachel Crawshaw stepped over Christopher Palmer, who lying unconscious on the landing. She ran down three or four steps but came back up shouting 'leave him alone'.
"She was grabbing onto Garda Phillips' back and again I asked her to exit the building to safety but she again refused, so I grabbed her and ran down three flights of stairs with her in hand and I placed her by the wall and said that I would be out shortly as we needed to bring her friend down.
"Again I ran up the stairs only to see Rachel Crawshaw following me again, she was grabbing me and refusing to leave the building. I again caught her and carried her out to safety and she was attempting to enter the building again.
"That was when I struck her with my baton in an attempt to subdue her and refrain her from entering the burning building again for her own safety," said Garda O'Sullivan, who made her way back upstairs and together with Garda Phillips picked up Christopher Palmer and brought him down to safety.
Garda O'Sullivan and Garda Phillips went back into the building after bringing out Mr Palmer and they managed to make it back up to the second floor where they found a woman and told her to flee the building but they were unable to make it back up to the third floor because of the dense smoke.