Tuesday 16 July 2019

Baby Mary 'probably died of smoke inhalation' before halting site rescue

Tragedy: The funeral of baby Mary Connors in 2015. Photo: Mark Condren
Tragedy: The funeral of baby Mary Connors in 2015. Photo: Mark Condren
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

The youngest victim of the Carrickmines halting site fire, five-month-old Mary Connors, was likely to have suffered fatal smoke inhalation injuries when she was first rescued, an inquest has heard.

State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said young babies were much more vulnerable to the effects of smoke inhalation and that, even if they survived the initial fire, they had much higher mortality rates than older children or adults.

The inquest into the deaths of five adults and five children at the temporary halting site on the Glenamuck Road in south Dublin has already heard how Mary was rescued by her uncle Jim Connors from her parents' burning Portacabin in the early hours of October 10, 2015.

The baby's aunt, Katie Connors, said Mary was breathing noisily at this point.

Mary was placed on a bed in a second cabin nearby. This cabin also caught fire when the initial blaze spread and she was rescued by firefighters.

However, Dr Bolster said, on the balance of probability and given what she had heard, "this baby had suffered a significant inhalation injury in the first fire".

Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster at the Coroners Court yesterday in Dublin. Photo: Collins
Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster at the Coroners Court yesterday in Dublin. Photo: Collins

Mary suffered extensive burns to her body and soot was found in her windpipe. Her cause of death was given as acute carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation.

The jury heard a harrowing account of the fire damage caused to the victims' bodies. Several family members who attended yesterday's hearing left the courtroom in distress.

All of the victims died from either carbon monoxide poisoning or from the inhalation of smoke and fire gases.

Fragments of clothing and jewellery were recovered from some of the bodies and these, along with DNA analysis and dental records, were used to identify the remains.

Dr Bolster said victim Tara Gilbert (27), who perished along with her partner Willie Lynch (25) and their daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4), was between 14 and 16 weeks' pregnant at the time of her death. She was carrying a baby boy.

The other victims were Thomas Connors (28) and his wife Sylvia (30) and their children Jim (5), Christy (3) and baby Mary. Also killed was Jimmy Lynch (39), a brother of Willie and Sylvia.

The inquest heard the body of little Jim Connors was found half under a charred bed on the right-hand side of the cabin. Close by were the remains of his parents and little brother.

Likewise the remains of Willie, Jodie, Kelsey and Tara were all found together. The remains of Jimmy were found in the kitchen and living area.

Post-mortems showed the adults had been drinking on the night of the fire. Asked by Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane if alcohol may have played a role in the tragedy, Dr Bolster said alcohol consumption would certainly have delayed reaction times. The fire was started by a chip pan and the post-­mortem on Thomas found he had recently eaten a meal of chips.

The inquest continues.

Irish Independent

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