Fire which killed sisters so intense experts can't say what caused it
Fire was so intense it burned a hole six feet by three feet wide in the floor of the bedroom
A FIRE which killed two sisters in a house blaze was so intense, experts can’t say for certain what caused it, an inquest heard today.
Jolene (Jody) Brogan (28) and her 27-year-old sister Anngeline (Anngie) Brogan died after the fire at a house in Letterkenny on January 3 last year.
Garda forensic officer Noel Keaveney told an inquest into their deaths today that the fire had started in an upstairs bedroom of the house in Ceannan View Park that morning.
It was so intense it had burnt a hole six feet by three feet wide in the floor of the bedroom.
The springs were all that remained of a double mattress which was protruding through the floor and was visible from the living room below.
Gda Keaveney said having examined the bedroom he believed the fire had been started by one of three possible sources, a cigarette, a wax candle or an electric fan heater.
The heater was in the ‘on’ position, two or three large wax candles were on top of a chest of drawers and an ashtray with cigarette butts had been found on top of a beside locker.
Electric smoke alarms had been in working order, he said.
Garda officers who were first on the scene of the fire said the flames were so intense they were unable to enter the house.
They had found a friend of the girls - Dean Kelly - in a distraught state outside. He had managed to escape via a rear bedroom window and was shouting their names.
Fire officer Martin Bond said he entered the house with another crew member.
By the time they had reached the top of the stairs, he said, they had no visibility due to thick black smoke.
Colleagues were tackling the flames downstairs and after two minutes they were able to enter the bedroom by moving around the edges.
They found Anngie Brogan beside a radiator close to the bedroom window and realised she was already dead.
They then began the search for Jodie and found her inside an en-suite bathroom and removed her to an ambulance. She died later that morning in hospital.
Mr Kelly told the hearing he had been invited to stay in the back bedroom at around 2am by Jody who owned the house. They had shared a last cigarette before going to bed.
He and the two sisters had bought budweiser, baileys and vodka the evening before and had spent the evening chatting, drinking and listening to music.
He said he woke up - and wasn’t sure of the time - had thought he had smelled smoke but had gone back to sleep again.
He said he woke up a short time later. This time he could hear a smoke alarm and jumped out of bed.
“I shouted for the girls to get up but there was no reply from them. I made my way to their bedroom and opened the door and there was an explosion and I was knocked back,” he said.
He ran next door and asked a neighbour to call the fire brigade before running back to the house.
“I picked up a jumper downstairs, went outside to wet it in the rain and wrapped it around me and went back inside but I had to go back out. I couldn’t breathe because of the smoke. I was shouting for them to get out of the house,” he said.
He told the coroner that he didn’t receive any verbal responses to any of his shouting to the girls.
Shop assistant Paul Doherty, who was also called as a witness, said he remembered that one of the Brogan sisters - believed to be Anngie - had entered the Centra store at Mountain Top at some stage between 3.30am and 4am along with a fair-haired man.
They had complained that the cash dispensing machine in the shop wasn’t working and left without purchasing anything.
Earlier the girls’ father Frank Brogan told Coroner John Cannon how he had identified his daughters’ bodies at the morgue of Letterkenny General Hospital.
Asked by the coroner how he was now, Mr Brogan replied: “I’m just getting by day by day.”
Pathologist Dr Hajnalka Gyorffy found Anngie’s death was due to extensive fourth degree burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, soot inhalation and a toxic amount of alcohol.
She found Jodie had extensive second degree burns, has suffered lethal carbon monoxide poisoning and soot inhalation. She also found she had cocaine, alcohol and zopiclone, a sleeping tablet prescribed for insomnia.
Mr Cannon recorded verdicts of death as a result of the medical evidence of Dr Gyorffy.
He passed his sympathies to parents Frank and Mary Brogan saying the deaths had been “heart-wrenching for the family and for all of us”.