Monday 16 September 2019

Inquest hears fatal house fire was 'probably' caused by a tumble dryer

Limerick City coroner urges warning about potential fire risks should be placed on all machines

Captions: Photos inside the Houlihan family home in Rose Court, Keyes Park, Southill, Limerick, show the aftermath of a fire which claimed the life of former Labour Party councillor Seamus Houlihan on June 2, 2018.
Captions: Photos inside the Houlihan family home in Rose Court, Keyes Park, Southill, Limerick, show the aftermath of a fire which claimed the life of former Labour Party councillor Seamus Houlihan on June 2, 2018.

David Raleigh

The son of a former Labour Party councillor who died in a house fire which his inquest heard was probably caused by a tumble dryer, said warnings about potential fire risks should be placed on all manufactured dryer machines.

The recommendation, relating to potential combustion risks from interrupting drying cycles and leaving hot clothes in dryers, was also made earlier by Limerick City Coroner John McNamara, on behalf of former Limerick city councillor Seamus Houlihan’s devastated family.

Mr Houlihan’s inquest heard that a tumble drier was the probable cause of the fatal blaze, although the exact cause could not be definitively established.

Mr Houlihan, 84, was found unresponsive by his son James, also a former Labour councillor, after he arrived at their home, which was on fire, on June 2, 2018.

Captions: Photos inside the Houlihan family home in Rose Court, Keyes Park, Southill, Limerick, show the aftermath of a fire which claimed the life of former Labour Party councillor Seamus Houlihan on June 2, 2018
Captions: Photos inside the Houlihan family home in Rose Court, Keyes Park, Southill, Limerick, show the aftermath of a fire which claimed the life of former Labour Party councillor Seamus Houlihan on June 2, 2018

The coroner returned a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Houlihan, who had a number of underlying health issues, died from high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning, the inquest heard.

A forensic examination of the three year old tumble dryer found it was the likely cause of the blaze.

An engineer's report stated the risk of laundry “self heating and subsequent spontaneous combustion” is a known safety risk in the laundry industry, particularly if the cooling phase of a cycle is stopped or interrupted.

James Houlihan told the inquest the lint filter in the dryer was maintained regularly, and he insisted the dryer was not turned on when he left the house earlier on the night.

Dr McNamara said he was not aware of the potential risks of laundry catching fire.

On behalf of a request of James Houlihan, Dr McNamara agreed to a general recommendation that warning stickers be prominently placed on tumble dryers.

Speaking afterwards, James Houlihan said he hoped this would help create awareness around the issue.

Mr Houlihan said the inquest verdict half provided some “closure” for him.

“And, hopefully, any warnings that get out there might help other families,” he said.

“We have finality. This thing has being going on now ten months.”

Mr Houlihan thanked “family and friends” for helping him refurbish his family home which he returned to living in last month.

“Well, its my home, its as simple as that. It’s different, but I’m back in there anyway, and I’d like to thank family and friends that helped me get back into the house.”

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