A HOUSE fire that claimed the life of a mother of five in the early hours of yesterday morning is believed to have been started by a heater.
Frantic efforts were made to rescue 62-year-old Ann Hallinan from her upstairs bedroom at her home in Convent Hill Crescent in Ballina, Co Mayo.
Her youngest son, Dominick -- a student -- arrived home from a night out with friends at about 4.30am to find smoke billowing from the upstairs section of the mid-terrace, two-storey family home.
Dominick tried to reach his mother in her bedroom -- the box-room upstairs at the front of the house. But the smoke was too intense and he was beaten back.
He immediately called the emergency services, and two units of Ballina Fire Brigade were on the scene within minutes. Neighbours had also arrived outside the house, but were unable to enter.
Firemen wearing breathing apparatus succeeded in gaining access to the upper floor and one officer emerged minutes later carrying Mrs Hallinan over his shoulder.
She was immediately placed in an ambulance and emergency resuscitation attempts were carried out. But some time later she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her body was removed to Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar and a post-mortem examination was carried out later yesterday.
Gardai said that they were not in a position to comment on the findings, but it is understood that Mrs Hallinan died from intense smoke inhalation. Most of the fire damage to the house was caused by smoke.
At lunchtime yesterday, Dominick returned to the house to speak with senior gardai.
Afterwards, he confirmed to the Irish Independent that he had attempted to reach his mother, but had been unable to do so.
The devastated young man declined to comment further.
Mrs Hallinan is also survived by her eldest son, Patrick, and daughters Teresa, Donna and Deirdre. Her husband, Dominick Snr, died some years ago.
Inspector Joe Doherty yesterday appealed to anyone who could assist in the garda investigation into the blaze to contact gardai at Ballina (096-20560).