Saturday 24 February 2018

Fire alarms out of order when mum, son died in tragic blaze

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A SPARK from an open fire led to a blaze that caused the death of a young mother and her six-year-old son, an inquest has heard.

The Coroner's Court was also told that there were no working smoke alarms in the house in Trim, Co Meath, where Michelle Gilbert (28) and her son Jack Harten died last February.

And it was told that even though the fire was contained in one downstairs room, the pair smothered to death after inhaling the smoke in an upstairs bedroom.


The full details of their deaths emerged at the inquest held in Navan yesterday.

The court heard how Ms Gilbert's partner, James Kennedy, had been in phone contact with her on the night she died.

But when she stopped answering his text messages at about 12:30am, he thought she had fallen asleep.

The next morning Ms Gilbert's mother called Mr Kennedy to see if her daughter and grandson were in his house, and he said no and that she had stayed at home, the court heard. She said she was outside the house at the Canterbrook estate, that the windows were blackened, and that there was a crack in the sitting-room pane.

When emergency services attended the scene, a fire crew in breathing apparatus discovered the bodies of Ms Gilbert and her son in a bedroom.

Garda Peter Kenny and Garda Barry Monaghan examined the house and found that the sitting room was the only room with fire damage.

The remainder of the house had suffered smoke damage, the inquest heard.

There was no fireguard in front of the fire and cinders and ashes had spilled out of it and on to the hearth.

Firemen found that a smoke alarm in the hall outside the sitting room had two wires emerging from it, and another upstairs was not working.

Garda Jaime McKeown described how the inside of the house was coated in soot. The inquest was told that the most probable cause of the house fire was a spark from an open fire on to a mat.

Pathologist Dr Muna Sabah gave the cause of death in both cases as carbon monoxide toxicity and smoke inhalation.

Dr Sabah said that death in both cases would have been instantaneous.

The coroner recorded a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.

Irish Independent

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