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Sunday 25 August 2019

Fire extinguishers 'weren't used' at scene of deadly Carrickmines fire that claimed 10 lives - inquest

  • Chip pan left on a hot plate was the cause of a horrific fire which claimed the lives of 10 people  - inquest hears
  • Harrowing photographs of the aftermath of the blaze shown to the jury
  • Inquest continues this afternoon
Pictured: Some of the victims of the deadly Carrickmines fire
Pictured: Some of the victims of the deadly Carrickmines fire
The scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines.
A Garda looks at flowers laid in memory of those who died in the Carrickmines fire tragedy
Scene of the fire in which 10 people lost their lives
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

An engineer who installed fire extinguishers on the halting site in which 10 people died in a blaze said he was shown three extinguishers after the tragedy and found them to be in perfect condition and said they had never been used.

The inquest into the deaths of five adults and five children at the temporary halting site at Glenamuck, Carrickmines, Dublin, will hear from a family member who said the fire extinguishers did not work on the night of the tragedy.

Lisa Algan, representing the Connors family, arriving at the inquest into the deaths of 10 people at a halting site in Carrickmines, Co Dublin, in 2015. Pic: Mark Condren
Lisa Algan, representing the Connors family, arriving at the inquest into the deaths of 10 people at a halting site in Carrickmines, Co Dublin, in 2015. Pic: Mark Condren

However giving evidence at Dublin Coroner’s Court this afternoon, service engineer Michael O’Driscoll said he was shown three extinguishers recovered by gardai from the site and all were in “perfect condition”.

“They had never been used. If they had been used the pressure gauge would have been reading in the red,” he explained.

Thomas Connors and his wife Sylvia
Thomas Connors and his wife Sylvia

He said a pin has to be removed from the extinguisher lever before it activates.

The inquest was told that each of the four bays in the halting site had its own extinguisher.

Tara Gilbert and Willie Lynch
Tara Gilbert and Willie Lynch

Family members of the victims are due to begin giving their evidence tomorrow morning.

The blaze, which gardai believe was started by a chip pan, claimed the lives of Thomas Connors (28), his wife Sylvia (30), and their children Jim (5), Christy (3) and five-month-old Mary.

Tara and Willie's daughters Kelsey and Jodie died in Carrickmines fire
Tara and Willie's daughters Kelsey and Jodie died in Carrickmines fire

Also killed were Willie Lynch (25), his partner Tara Gilbert (27), who was pregnant, and her daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4). Jimmy Lynch (39), a brother of Willie, also lost his life in the fire.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane told the inquest jury that Thomas and Syliva lived at the halting site. William, a brother of Sylvia, and Tara were visiting the site that night with her children. Jimmy, another brother of Sylvia, was also visiting the site on the night of the tragedy.

Scene of the fire in which 10 people lost their lives
Scene of the fire in which 10 people lost their lives
A Garda looks at flowers laid in memory of those who died in the Carrickmines fire tragedy

Harrowing photographs of the aftermath of the blaze were shown to the jury, including the charred remains of the portacabin where the fire started.

Detective Inspector Martin Creighton  said an electrical cooker was found to be the probable source of the fire. He said the blaze probably started due to a chip pan being left on a hot plate at full power.

Meanwhile Conor Peoples, a senior staff officer at the Traveller Accommodation Unit at Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council told how the temporary halting site was extended to accommodate Thomas and Sylvia Connors and their family.

He said the original plan had been for the family’s cabin to be placed perpendicular to the Glenamuck Road, however it ended up being craned into a parallel position “due to the fall of the site”. It meant the Connors’ cabin was placed about a metre away from another portacabin.

This second cabin also caught fire as the blaze spread from the Connors’ cabin on the night of the tragedy.

Asked by Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane if there were regulations about distances between units, Mr Peoples said: “My understanding now is the optimum distance was six metres.”

Niamh Foley, barrister for the Lynch family, put it to Mr Peoples that an expert commissioned by the gardai to carry out a report on the fire found there was no fire blankets, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

Mr Peoples said he was “surprised” to hear that as all these items had been supplied at the halting site and there were documents to show this.

Brian Kennedy, a senior caretaker with the Traveller section of the council, said a fire extinguisher was put in the bay occupied by the Connors’ cabin and that a smoke alarm had been fitted inside the cabin.

He said Thomas Connors “insisted” that his cabin be located in the position it was as he wanted to be able to see from his front door when his children walked to the toilet block at night.

Electrical contractor Carl Fortune told the inquest this afternoon his company carried out a substantial refit of the electrics at the halting site in May 2015 and said they were “100pc safe” after this.

He said the fusebox inside Thomas Connors’ cabin was replaced and a smoke alarm was installed.

In relation to the smoke alarm, he said: “There were complaints of it going off so it was replaced with a heat detector.”

The inquest continues tomorrow.

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