Tuesday 23 July 2019

DNA used to identify victims as inferno ripped though halting site 'in 15 minutes'

Heat of blaze reached 650C, inquest is told

Paramedic Catriona Sheerin. Photo: Colin Keegan
Paramedic Catriona Sheerin. Photo: Colin Keegan
Firefighter and paramedic Ray Martin and paramedic Rebecca Mooney at the inquest yesterday; the scene of the fire. Photo: Colin Keegan
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

DNA was the chief method used to identify the victims of the tragic Carrickmines halting site blaze, which reached 'intense heat' levels of up to 650C.

Devastated family members left the coroner's courtroom in distress during the harrowing evidence at the inquests at the Dublin City Coroner's Court.

Dental records were used to distinguish Connors brothers James (5) and Christy (3) from each other. Their six-month-old sister Mary Connors was identified visually.

The bodies of four of the deceased - Thomas Connors (27), his wife Sylvia (30) and their sons James and Christy - were recovered from the main bedroom.

Willie Lynch (25) and his pregnant partner Tara Gilbert (27), who were visiting the Connors family, were recovered with their daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) from the second, smaller bedroom.

The body of Jimmy Lynch (39) was removed from the kitchen area, where the fire started.

The bodies were identified according to Interpol body recovery identification protocols, for the first time.

Six-month-old baby Mary Connors was pronounced dead at Tallaght Hospital, having been recovered from the second cabin to which the fire had spread and which was just 81cm away.

Fireman Ray Martin, of Kill Avenue Fire Station, told the hearing that once reaching the scene, he was informed that there could be a baby in one of the cabins that was on fire, with "flames from top to bottom".

They attacked the fire at the door and a woman told him: "She's in there, she's on the bed."

He couldn't see any flames but there was a lot of thick smoke and heat as they entered the bedroom and he saw the baby lying on the bed, at the foot of the bed with the duvet turned over her.

He took the baby off the bed and brought her to the door, handing her over to a colleague.

"There was no obvious signs of life," said Mr Martin. There were burn marks on her face and on both forearms.

Paramedic Rebecca Mooney told the hearing that a fireman had handed her a baby and had removed her clothes which were wet. The child was "very hot", and she noted soot around her nose and mouth. "The baby was in cardiac arrest," she said.

Garda Shane Curran told the inquest that examination of the scene pointed to the seat of the fire being in the kitchen/living room.

The right rear hotplate of the cooker held the remnants of a chip pan which was on the point of being "practically unidentifiable". He described it as a "molten lump of aluminium" with a netted steel basket on top.

Steel melts at a higher temperature than aluminium, which melts at 650C, explained Gda Curran, adding that this suggested the fire had started around that location.

Gda Curran said there were no other obvious ignition sources except for the chip pan.

Asked by the coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, the likely speed at which the fire would have developed, Gda Curran said there may have been whole involvement in "possibly 10 or 15 minutes".

When the coroner said the family could understand that all their loved ones were "almost certainly unconscious" due to poisonous gasses before conflagration reached them, Gda Curran replied that this was highly likely.

All nine victims were found on the floor and protection marks indicated that they probably died before the fire reached them, the inquest heard.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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