Friday 19 January 2018

Woman killed when oxygen tank blew up as she lit cigarette

Gareth Naughton

A WOMAN was probably lighting a cigarette when her oxygen supply blew up in her face, an inquest has heard.

Mary Kearney (65) was at her home on Champions Avenue, in Dublin, when the incident happened just after midnight on February 24, last year.

A life-long smoker, she had been taking oxygen for three years having developed severe emphysema.

In a deposition to Dublin Coroner's Court, her husband John said that 20 minutes before the incident he had brought his wife some water and she seemed in good form. He then heard a fire alarm go off and a bang. He checked her oxygen concentrator, which was located downstairs, and it was working. But when he went upstairs he found Mrs Kearney lying face down on the floor. Her face was black.

He brought her to the bed and attempted CPR. She was taken to the Mater Hospital by ambulance but was dead.

The court heard that it was probable that Mrs Kearney had been trying to light a cigarette at the time of the incident.

Her son John Kearney Jr said that his mother had been vigilant about ensuring that nobody smoked around her since she began taking oxygen.

However, she had been very stressed following the death of her brother and was arranging his funeral. His mother may not have been in her right mind at the time, he said.


The company that supplied the air concentrator, Air Products Ireland, inspected the device. Quality manager John McEvoy said that there was no issue with the machine itself.

The only way the flare-up could have happened is if the area immediately around the nasal prongs had come into contact with a naked flame.

A post-mortem revealed that while the resultant flare up had left soot on her face, neck and nostrils and singed her hair, it was not the cause of her death. She had been suffering from severe heart disease and the shock of the incident had brought on cardiac arrest causing her to die instantly.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that while there was no evidence that Mrs Kearney had been smoking a cigarette at the time, this was the most likely cause of the incident. He recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

Irish Independent

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